Voter ID laws could affect another group’s ability to vote: transgender Americans

Since voter fraud is such a hugely pervasive issue this election (it’s not, really), Republicans, who statistically benefit from the votes of poor and minority Americans being systemically suppressed by stringent voter ID laws, have been cracking down on it in recent years. States like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and others require IDs and only accept select forms of ID. These laws notoriously have disproportionate effects on Hispanic and black voters, who are substantially less likely than white voters to possess these forms of ID. However, frequently excluded from this dialogue around voter suppression are transgender Americans.

As an ever so friendly reminder, Election Day is literally two weeks away, and the systemic obstacles stacked in the way of transgender voters are neither quickly nor easily dealt with. A trans person’s legal name, photo, or gender marker may not be updated on a legal ID, because varying state laws render it either difficult or impossible to update this information, let alone efficiently within two weeks. Trans people who show up at polling booths could be denied the right to vote because their physical appearance doesn’t match their ID’s photo and information. In the states of Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, changing one’s gender marker is  nearly impossible, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, and all of these states enforce voter ID laws recognized as among the strictest in the nation.

States requiring IDs generally accept driver’s licenses, in-state college IDs, military IDs, and the employee IDs of government workers. But whether it’s changing a legal name, getting a new photo, or altering other information such as gender, all cases require relatively strenuous processes that many people lack the time or resources, such as transportation to get to a court or the DMV, to attempt to change them.

Some of these states require proof of surgery or even a doctor’s signature in order for individuals to get a gender marker changed on birth certificates and government-issued IDs, or some, including Tennessee, simply prohibit you from changing certain documents at all. Transitioning and the expression of gender identity are unique processes for everyone, and it’s simply impossible to codify and restrict this expression to a set of uniform requirements.

All of these laws infringe on individuals’ right to privacy, which includes transitioning and is a big enough problem even before you factor in the effects on individuals’ ability to participate in democracy due to discriminatory laws pertaining to identity. Let’s not forget, too, the harassment and abuse transgender Americans who show up to polling booths to attempt to vote could be subjected to.

The challenges transgender Americans face in order to vote speak not only to the overarching issue of voter suppression, often as a means to target voters of demographics expected to vote one way, but quiet, subtle attempts to further disenfranchise marginalized people.