Media are reporting that stringent voter ID laws in several states have a harsh impact for transgender voters, who often face barriers to updating their ID documents to reflect their gender and experience harassment and mistreatment as a result.
LGBTQ Nation: “An Estimated 34,000 Trans Voters May Find It Impossible To Cast A Ballot In This Election.” LGBTQ Nation writes that voter ID laws often suppress the votes of not just low-income and minority Americans but also transgender voters:
But one of the side effects of the laws is that they make it harder for trans voters too. An estimated 34,000 trans voters may find it impossible to cast a ballot this election because they can’t clear the hurdles that Republican legislatures have put in place.
According to a report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, eight states have laws that make voting incredibly (and perhaps intentionally) difficult for trans people. At issue is the need to produce documentation, such as a birth certificate, that not only proves that they are U.S. citizens but that also reflects their gender. Of course, North Carolina, hotbed of anti-trans activity, is one of the eight offending states.
“Transgender people have unique, and sometimes insurmountable, burdens to obtaining accurate IDs for voting in states that require it,”says Williams Institute Scholar Jody Herman, the author of the study. [LGBTQ Nation, 11/8/16]
Daily Dot: Unnecessarily Confusing State Laws Could Stop Trans People From Voting. Strict voter laws are “unnecessarily confusing, making it -- some would argue, purposely -- hard for multiple groups of people to exercise their right to vote,” says The Daily Dot. According to a November 7 article, none of the states that demand voters to present photo ID “require that the gender marker on the ID match the gender presentation of the individual. And yet it's still a complication that could stop trans people from voting”:
“For a transgender individual coming in to vote at the polls using a photo ID, it can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to get that ID updated to reflect who they are,” Arli Christian of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) told the Daily Dot. “So what happens is an individual walking into the polls will show a photo ID, and for reasons that are not relevant to whether the person is eligible to vote, that voter will be questioned. Perhaps their gender presentation does not match the gender marker listed on their ID. Perhaps the photo on the ID is outdated. And they’ll come under additional scrutiny.”
The NCTE has provided a “voting while trans” checklist to help trans people vote, suggesting that they make sure their name and address is the same across registrations, and reminding poll workers that as long as their name and address are correct, they can vote. “We’re assuming the best of folks. We’re assuming nobody is trying to prevent anyone from casting their ballot,” says Christian.
However, not everyone has the best intentions. Dawn Ennis wrote for NewNowNext about how she had trouble voting in the presidential primary, even though her driver's license gender matched her identity. A poll worker repeatedly called her “sir,” and it took speaking to a supervisor and numerous phone calls until she could vote. A trans woman in Pennsylvania was also sent home and asked to produce name-change documents after presenting an ID with a male gender marker. [The Daily Dot, 11/7/16]
Vox: “The Result Is That Trans People Often Face Problems -- Not Just In Polling Booths, But Broadly -- Due To Outdated IDs.” In addition to stringent voter ID laws, five states -- Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Wisconsin -- have laws that make it difficult or even impossible to change the gender markers on government-issued IDs, according to Vox, which noted that other states present hurdles as well:
Whether it’s changing a legal name, getting a new photo, or altering other information, many people simply don’t have the time or resources -- particularly transportation -- that may be required to get to, say, a court or DMV.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle is many states’ requirements for changing a gender marker. States can require, for instance, proof of surgery or a doctor’s signature to get a gender marker changed on birth certificates or government-issued IDs. Some, like Tennessee, don’t let you change certain documents at all.
The result is that trans people often face problems -- not just in polling booths, but broadly -- due to outdated IDs. According to the 2011 National Trans Discrimination Survey, 40 percent of trans people reported harassment or discrimination when presenting an ID that doesn’t match who they are. And only one-fifth of those who transitioned were able to change all of their documentation and records. [Vox, 10/25/16]
Wisconsin State Journal: “Voter ID Law May Introduce Obstacles For Transgender Voters.” Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID laws could dissuade trans voters from showing up at the polls, according to the Wisconsin State Journal:
The state's new law requiring voters to present photo identification could mean uncomfortable questions at the polls for people who are transgender or others whose physical appearance or name may not closely match their identification.
Transgender advocates said they've heard of scattered stories about poll workers expressing skepticism of some people who don't identify with their biological gender during the spring and fall primaries, when the state's photo ID law was in effect.
And transgender voters are concerned they will face questions or even be turned away after showing IDs that may have photos and names listed that don't match their current appearance or identity, possibly forcing those voters to reveal they are transgender or discouraging voting altogether. [Wisconsin State Journal, 11/2/16]
South Florida Gay News: Voter Suppression Affects The “Electoral Impact Of LGBT People, Further Marginalizing All LGBT People,” “Especially Transgender People Of Color.” In Florida, a court order is required before transgender people can update their IDs, and after receiving the order the voter has to make the change at each ID-issuing agency separately, according to the South Florida Gay News. This process requires time and can be quite costly, both of which are barriers for transgender people, who are likely to work in low-income jobs, the October 19 article states:
After the court order, the client has to update their ID with each ID-issuing agency. This requires taking time off from work. Most transgender people tend to have low-income jobs. In addition, an updated ID costs money.
In Florida, voters have to present a proper ID at their polling place before voting. This forms the first barrier, the lack of “proper” ID. The poll worker compares the ID with the voter and the voter registration name. When the poll worker determines that all three match, the voter can proceed to vote. This introduces the second barrier, the potential bias of poll workers. [South Florida Gay News, 10/19/16]
Project Q Atlanta: “Of All Eight States With Strict Voter ID Laws, Georgia By Far Has The Most Transgender Folks That Will Be Impacted.” Georgia has strict voter ID laws, strict standards for updating gender markers, and a high transgender population. This combination amounts to a potential impact on at least 11,500 eligible transgender voters in Georgia on November 8, according to an October 20 article in Project Q Atlanta:
Georgia's voter ID law, among the strictest in the nation, requires people to show a government issued ID to verify their identity before voting. These laws have widely been panned by voting rights advocates for placing barriers that mostly affect marginalized communities, including trans and gender non-conforming voters, as well as voters of color and low-income voters.
Georgia has one of the largest transgender populations in the U.S. and more than 29,000 transgender Georgians are eligible to vote, according to the Williams Institute, which researches the impact of law and public policy on LGBTQ people. Of all eight states with strict voter ID laws, Georgia by far has the most transgender folks that will be impacted, an estimated 11,500 or 39 percent of eligible transgender voters, according to a recent study from the Williams Institute. [Project Q Atlanta, 10/20/16]