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Voter suppression hurts transgender people uniquely—and more

Trans people are unlikely to vote because of the fear of discrimination. However, preventing someone from voting because of their gender is illegal.

Voter suppression hurts transgender people uniquely—and more
Image Source: Getty Images/ Bloomberg Creative

Transgender people make up an estimated 1.4 million people in the United States, and more than 965,000 of them are expected to cast their ballots this year. However, over 378,000 of them—about 40 percent—will not head to the polls because they do not have "accurate" IDs. Voter ID laws in many states across the country create particular challenges for trans people. This is because these laws were created, in fact, to suppress the votes of Black, indigenous, and trans citizens. It is rare to hear about trans people being turned away from voting booths as the fear of discrimination keeps them from voting in the first place, CNN reports.




For instance, Koby Ozias, a transgender man from Corpus Christi, Texas, headed to the polls with his old ID during state elections in November 2013 as he could not afford to legally change his name or update his ID at the time. At the polling booth, poll workers interrogated him about his identity in an attempt to prevent him from voting. Thankfully, Ozias was a poll worker himself and even a member of provisional ballot voting boards. This gave him the knowledge he needed to eventually cast his vote. "I am lucky enough that I've worked around the electoral process and knew what my rights were," he said. "My concern has always been with people who don't."




While voter ID laws were allegedly created to prevent voter fraud, they usually end up hurting trans people most. This year could be particularly challenging as the ongoing public health crisis has made it even more difficult to get new IDs. The fear of being discriminated against, furthermore, can be an even greater challenge. This makes it harder for trans people to vote in leaders who will make it safer for them to vote. Mara Keisling, founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, stated, "It hurts trans people when trans people don't vote. If we want the government to take us into account better, we have to take the government into account. We have to vote. We have to participate."




The trouble with voter ID laws is that they were created with cis folks in mind. "These laws were designed and structured to benefit some people with certain IDs more than others," said Chad Dunn, a voting rights attorney and co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project. "There's no doubt that a law requiring you to have an ID has a discriminatory effect on transgender people." As of 2020, 35 states require voters to present their IDs when casting their ballots. According to Dunn, trans folks whose name and appearance no longer match their ID may be given a provisional ballot, which should be provided to every voter if there's a question about their eligibility or registration.




While we wait and fight for structural change, there are some ways to overcome the challenges of voting if you are trans. Firstly, vote early or by mail as this can bypass the potential of being misgendered or questioned about your ID. Secondly, bring a plus one. Not only will this make voting more fun, you know you will have a buddy in case you face cruelty. "It's a lot harder to discriminate when you have support systems there, when people know that other people are watching," Keisling shared. "It discourages bad behaviors." Thirdly, know your rights. It is illegal for poll workers to deny a ballot to a trans person based on their gender. If you have been discriminated against and want to make sure your ballot is cast, you can call the Election Protection Helpline, a nonpartisan resource to ensure fair voting. Fourth and lastly, always take additional documentation with you if possible. The National Center for Transgender Equality suggests carrying a utility bill, student ID, credit card, or passport.



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