Photo ID requirements could keep tens of thousands of transgender people from voting in US elections

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A report has shown cause for concern that new, stricter photo ID requirements in the US could prevent tens of thousands of transgender people from voting this November.

The report, “The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters in the 2014 General Election”, was based off of a study conducted for the Williams Institute at UCLA and written by Jody L. Herman. The report warns, “In the November 2014 General election, strict photo ID laws may create substantial barriers to voting and possible disenfranchisement for over 25,000 transgender people in ten states.”

The states in question—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin—all require that voters show government-issued photo ID at the polls. It is estimated that they have about 84,000 eligible transgender voters between them, and of those, about 27 percent lack valid photo ID that accurately reflects their gender identity.

Legally changing one’s gender markers varies in complexity from state to state, and is often relatively expensive, adding an additional barrier for some transgender people whose current ID may not meet poll standards.

Additionally, the requirement to present government-issued photo identification, such as driver’s licenses, passports, military ID, or state employee ID cards, will disproportionately several demographics. The report notes, “Some voters may not have the means or the ability to present the required voter identification for a variety of reasons…A 2006 study found that 11 percent of U.S. citizens did not have government-issued photo identification, with minorities, the elderly, and those who have lower incomes being less likely than others to have government-issued photo identification.”

Additionally, it continues, “Transgender people who have transitioned face additional burdens to acquiring or updating identification that would fulfill voter ID requirements because they must comply with the requirements for updating the name and gender on their state-issued or federally-issued IDs and records.Requirements for updating state-issued IDs vary widely by state and can be difficult and costly. Federal requirements also vary by agency.”

To help clarify the situation and increase voter turnout, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) offers a checklist and a guide to voting while trans.

The guide notes, “Though transgender voters have not been specifically targeted by the new legislation, they will be disproportionately affected by the new rules. Many trans people cannot obtain updated identification, and poll workers have broadened discretion under the new laws to deny voters a regular ballot if they believe—even incorrectly—that someone is trying to vote fraudulently.”

On Election Day, it advises, “you should bring to the polls with you:

1. Your voter registration card
2. The correct ID you verified
3. The checklist included in this report
4. If possible, a utility bill showing the address where you are registered to vote.”

The NCTE guide goes on to say that even in the worst-case senario, all voters should know that they still have recourse: “If you are still not allowed to vote after showing the poll worker all these documents, ask for a provisional ballot and/or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) for help.”

According to Pink News, although proponents of the law argue that the requirements are necessary to reduce voter fraud, law professor Justin Levitt of Loyola Law school was only able to find thirty-one recent, credible cases that the photo ID laws could have prevented.

He said, “This sort of misdirection is pretty common, actually. Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you’ll actually hear about.

“We also find that voters who were subject to stricter identification requirements believe fraud is just as widespread, as do voters subject to less restrictive identification requirements.”

The author of the report, Jody L. Herman, added, “As lawmakers consider enacting stricter voter ID laws and contemplate their potential impact in the upcoming November elections, the consequences of these laws for transgender voters should not be overlooked.”

429Magazine

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