More than 34,000 transgender Americans in eight states could be prevented from voting in the November 2016 election because of strict voter identification laws that require voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls, according to a newly released report.
The report, prepared by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank affiliated with the UCLA School of Law, says many transgender people who have transitioned from one gender to another do not have identification that accurately reflects their correct gender.
“Lawmakers and election officials should not overlook the impact on transgender voters when enacting voting restrictions based on identity documents,” said Williams Institute Scholar Jody L. Herman, author of the report, “The Potential Impact of Voter Identification on Transgender Voters in the 2016 General Election.”
“Voter ID laws impact many citizens who would otherwise be eligible to vote,” Herman said. “Transgender people have unique, and sometimes insurmountable, burdens to obtaining accurate IDs for voting in states that require it.”
The report says 34 U.S. states have passed some form of voter identification laws but the strictest of them come from eight states: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The greatest potential problem for transgender people, the report says, is the requirement of the voter ID laws in these states that people present a government-issued photo ID.
“In voter ID states that do not have the strict photo ID requirement, voters have options available to them to comply with the law other than showing a photo ID,” the report says.
“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,” the report states.
“Transgender people who have transitioned face additional burdens to acquiring or updating identification that would fulfill voter ID requirements because they must comply with requirements for updating the name and gender on their state-issue or federally issued IDs and records,” according to the report. “Requirements for updating state-issued IDs vary widely by state and can be difficult and costly.”
The report says it bases its findings related to number of trans voters on the most recent data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which is conducted by the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“While the NTDS cannot be considered a representative sample of the transgender population, it represents the best available data to estimate the number of voting-eligible transgender citizens who could face barriers to voting or possible disenfranchisement in the November 2016 election,” the report says.
It says one of the findings of the DTDS was that 27 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned report they had no identification documents or records that list their correct gender.
“If that rate holds true for the current U.S. population, about 261,000 transgender citizens who have transitioned have no updated identification records,” the report says. “Transgender people of color, youth, students, people with low incomes and people with disabilities were more likely than the average NTDS respondent to have no updated identification documents or records,” it says.
The National Center for Transgender Equality argues in a voting “checklist” guide for trans voters that a pre-transition photo ID for a transgender person should be acceptable at polling places, even if the voter presents themselves as being of a gender different from the ID.
“As long as the relevant voter data (usually the name and address) matches one of the acceptable forms of ID, the voter has the right to vote,” NCTE says in its checklist guide aimed at poll workers. “Please do not be distracted by gender presentation when you are evaluating a voter’s identity and eligibility to vote,” it says.
“Different clothing, makeup or hairstyle on an ID photo is not a valid reason to deny a regular ballot,” the guide says. “Voters may look different today than on their photo ID for many reasons.”
In cases where a state polling place may steadfastly demand that a government-issued photo ID reflect the correct gender of the voter, NCTE offers a separate guide on how to obtain a new or updated form of identification.