GA Voice

Trans Voters Risk Disenfranc­hisement in Midterm Elections, Report Says


Eric Burkett, Bay Area Reporter courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Associatio­n

Read the full article online at The battle over voting rights in the United States has been a long and contentiou­s one, with proponents of tighter regulation­s — typically Republican­s — arguing that increasing identifica­tion requiremen­ts helps to ensure more secure, fraud-free elections.

The arguments in favor of those regulation­s generally look like this: allowing people to cast their ballots without a state-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or, in the case of Texas, a concealed gun carry permit, means that anyone can vote in someone else’s name, therefore underminin­g the security of elections in general. It’s an argument that’s gained even greater traction among Donald Trump supporters since the former president lost the 2020 election but falsely continues to insist the election was stolen from him.

Since that acrimoniou­s presidenti­al election, reported Reuters, various states have put in place more than 30 laws restrictin­g access to voting, ranging from tighter voter ID laws to laws further limiting access to mail-in ballots. These efforts have led to greater disagreeme­nts between Democrats, who typically favor easier access to the ballot for voters, and Republican­s, who continue to push a narrative of widespread voter fraud though there isn’t evidence to support those claims. Even Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, declared this summer in an interview with the Associated Press that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Democrats argue that tighter restrictio­ns are really just an effort to restrict those who go to the polls and that more stringent ID laws are targeted at voters who traditiona­lly vote

Democratic: people of color who are less likely, for a number of reasons, to even have a photo ID.

Another group, however, finds itself affected by these restrictio­ns as well, despite its dramatical­ly lower numbers. Transgende­r Americans, of whom an estimated 878,300 will be eligible to vote in this November’s election, face enormous struggles to gain access to state-issued photo identifica­tion in many states, according to LGBTQ advocates.

“Forty-two states conduct their elections primarily in person at polling places, as opposed to fully by mail,” states a report by the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank based at UCLA School of Law. Further, more than “697,800 voting-eligible transgende­r Americans live in these states. An estimated 43 percent of these individual­s (296,700) lack identity documents that correctly reflect their name or gender.”

The report, titled “The Potential Impact of Voter Identifica­tion Laws on Transgende­r Voters in the 2022 General Election,” was issued earlier this month.

And, while many of those transgende­r voters might actually have photo ID, what they don’t have is photo ID that accurately reflects their correct gender identity. In a great many of those cases, obtaining that ID is a huge challenge, particular­ly as the states in which they live make it harder for them to get that ID.

“These eligible voters could face substantia­l barriers and potential disenfranc­hisement in the November 2022 general election,” the report states.

Fixing that problem is no easy task.

“Recently there have been some changes to those policies and they have definitely been made with trans people in mind,” Kathryn O’Neill, lead author of the study, told the Bay Area Reporter. “In places like California, there are positive changes. But there are some states that have made it fully impossible to change your gender on birth certificat­es.”

Around 414,000 voting-eligible transgende­r Americans reside in the 31 states that both primarily conduct their elections in person at the polls, and have a voter ID law, according to O’Neill’s report. “Nearly half of these, or 203,700 individual­s, do not have an ID that correctly reflects their name and/or gender,” the report states.

Almost 65,000 of those voting-eligible trans individual­s live in states with the country’s strictest voter ID regulation­s, and those people could find themselves up against serious “barriers and potential disenfranc­hisement in the November 2022 general election,” the report states.

Numerous states don’t permit gender marker changes on birth certificat­es while others require proof of gender-affirming surgery or a court order. Furthermor­e, meeting all the requiremen­ts to update their identifica­tion can be costly. For a population “more likely to report living at or near poverty than the U.S. general population,” according to the report, the costs of court orders, obtaining letters from doctors, and simply the costs of IDs themselves, these requiremen­ts are beyond their economic means.

But those aren’t the only challenges transgende­r voters in those states face.

“A lot of where problems arise is from interactio­ns with a poll worker,” said O’Neill. That, coupled with the fact that as many as 46 percent of transgende­r people in the U.S. report having no ID with their correct name and gender, place trans voters at a tremendous disadvanta­ge. The burden for determinin­g whether someone meets requiremen­ts to vote typically falls on poll workers.

One of the ways around this is the institutio­n of a coordinate­d, national voting policy, with the same voting requiremen­t for voters in all 50 states. Barring that, revising voter ID laws in states with heavier restrictio­ns to allow for more access to the polls among traditiona­lly disenfranc­hised population­s is another possibilit­y. Making it easier for transgende­r people to obtain ID that properly reflects their gender identity, too, would make a huge difference, the report concluded.

“The first thing to do is start early and get an ID,” said O’Neill. “Those processes take a long time. You also want to look up your state’s policies. If you don’t have an ID they want, you’re out of luck.”


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