The Femo: Voter ID laws place potential burden on transgender individuals

Voting booth

by Ashleigh McEvoy

The stringent voter ID laws recently enacted in numerous states around the country have been well publicized. News outlets were abuzz just this week with the decision of Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson to delay enforcement of the new Pennsylvania law — which would require a photo ID in order to vote — until after this election cycle. Coverage has primarily focused on the burden of these new voting laws on low-income individuals, people of color, and the elderly, as a significant portion of these demographics likely do not have the funds, physical ability, or adequate information to obtain the necessary forms of identification to vote. But what about another marginalized group, transgender persons, whose names, genders, and photos may not match those on their identification? How will these restrictive voting laws affect transgender individuals?

The Williams Institute of UCLA Law School reported in April 2012 that more than 25,000 transgender people stand to lose their right to vote as a result of these laws. Trans people — many of whom likely experience discrimination in their daily lives already, including at the polls of previous elections — are thus disproportionately burdened with another obstacle. To counter this, the National Center for Transgender Equality has launched a new campaign, dubbed “Voting While Trans.” It consists of PSAs to spread awareness and other resources to help trans individuals exercise their right to vote. A seven-page pamphlet highlights the confusion and bias that will be created by these laws’ additional scrutiny, breaks down the rules by state, recommends updating pictures and gender information, and provides hotline numbers that individuals can call if they are turned away at the polls.

These new voting laws are unnecessary; with them, Republicans claim to tackle an issue of voter fraud that the data proves is virtually nonexistent. Instead, these laws create additional problems for marginalized populations — many of whom perhaps not coincidentally tend to vote Democrat. Transgender persons’ ability to vote should not be so vulnerable. The right to vote should not be dependent on gender identity or presentation, nor on the prejudice of the poll attendant. However, these new voting laws make that increasingly so. I surmise that the unique plight of transgender men and women did not cross the minds of these legislators — or perhaps it did, and they simply did not care. Regardless, the efforts of the NTCE serve as a reminder to all of us: Be informed, know the voting laws of the state in which you live, and get organized for Nov. 6.