Strict Voter ID Laws Could Disenfranchise Transgender Voters

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NBC News reported on Friday that a new report has determined that strict voter ID laws can actually end up disenfranchising transgender voters.

According to a recent report from the Williams Institute, poll workers are fully responsible for deciding “whether a voter’s identification accurately identifies the voter and matches the information listed in the voter registration rolls.” As of now, 34 states require some loose form of identification, while eight states require voters to have a government-issued photo ID.

In these eight states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin — around 78,000 transgender people, who are eligible to vote, are at risk of being disenfranchised in the 2018 midterm elections because of the photo or gender marker on their ID.

One Maryland resident, referred to solely as Oliver, told NBC that he was unable to vote for the very first time in 2014 because of the gender listed on his ID. Calling the experience humiliating, Oliver said that the poll worker had looked at him and said, “This isn’t your ID. It has an ‘F’ on it.”

While it is not a legal requirement to have the gender marker on your identification match your outward appearance, the hour-long deliberation that followed deterred him from going back to the polls to vote. Now, he simply sends in an absentee ballot. Oliver admitted that he only just recently went to the DMV to legally change the gender marker and name on his ID, adding that the process was “really expensive.”

Many transgender Americans have faced very similar problems due to their legal identification. A 2015 survey revealed that only 11 percent of the 28,000 trans participants had their preferred name and gender listed on all of their IDs.

“Transgender people who have transitioned often face substantial challenges to obtaining accurate identification,” Williams Institute public policy scholar Jody L. Herman noted, adding that the “requirements for updating the name and gender on official IDs that could be used for voting vary widely by state and federal agency, and the process can be difficult and expensive.”

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While President Trump has recently called for more extensive voter identification laws, Herman said that doing so could result in transgender individuals being denied the right to vote.

“Lawmakers, election officials and government agencies must work to ensure that transgender people have equal access to vote,” Herman said.

The report also determined that “people of color, young adults, students, people with low incomes and people with disabilities” are negatively affected by strict voter ID laws, as well.