Officials could keep addresses secret if legislation passes

State Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa

State Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa

PHOENIX - A state representative who cited security concerns proposed legislation to allow candidates for elected office in Arizona to be able to keep their home addresses secret if they want.

The bill proposed by Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend of Mesa and six co-sponsors could make it difficult to confirm that candidates actually live in districts they want to represent, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

The bill would also give candidates elected to office the option of having their home addresses withheld from public records while they're in office.

"We live in a post-Gabrielle-Giffords-attack world, and, as a lawmaker, it's uncomfortable knowing, especially being a widowed mother of teenagers at home, (there's) people on my property," Townsend said, referring to the 2011 assassination attempt on then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent event outside a Tucson-area supermarket.

Townsend wouldn't provide details of any incidents at her home, but said there have been times when strangers have been on her property or placed things near her home.

Townsend said that makes her uneasy and that other lawmakers have had similar experiences.

The legislation would apply to candidates at all levels of government in Arizona, from statewide office to school boards.

Candidates' addresses now go on nominating papers that are available to the public when requested.

A lawyer who has represented clients who challenged the claimed residencies of two other legislators criticized the legislation.

Keeping a candidate or lawmaker's address public "allows citizens who are concerned if they're truly being represented or not to investigate for themselves, to find out the truth," said attorney Tom Ryan.

If Townsend has ever felt threatened in her own home, she needs to go to the police, not sponsor legislation, he said.

Secretary of State's Office spokesman Matt Robert said the office's online posting of candidate records includes an address for a candidate's campaign committee, but that address is not always a home address.

However, the paperwork containing a candidate's home address can be requested under the state's public records law.