Voter ID laws stand between transgender people, women and the ballot box | WFAE 90.7


According to a recent report by a think tank that studies sexual orientation, gender identity law, and public policy, more than 200,000 transgender Americans eligible to vote may struggle to vote in the upcoming elections. midterm due to voter identification laws.

The report, released last month by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, finds that these people could be stopped by poll workers or other election officials because their registration information on the electoral lists do not correspond to their identity card or other documents.

Based on that figure, more than 64,000 trans people could face additional barriers because they live in states where strict photo ID requirements may force them to vote provisionally. These votes might not count unless the voter can later provide acceptable information.

“As we think about election policies and the rules we impose on how and where people vote – and particularly when the topic of voter identification comes up – I think it’s important to separate stated intent of these laws and their actual impact,” said Kathryn K. O’Neill, policy analyst at the Williams Institute and one of the report’s authors.

The report highlights the ongoing challenges that trans people may face when trying to participate in daily life. The process for obtaining identification documents that reflect a person’s correct name and gender marker can vary by state, creating an uneven system.

Thirty-five states require voters to show identification to vote. Some states (18) require photo ID; other states (17) accept non-photo ID. Some states allow voters to present other identifying information, such as a utility bill or bank statement, if they don’t have ID to vote, and others require voters to vote by provisional vote.

In 2021, Jey’nce Poindexter of Michigan contacted an attorney about the cost of legally changing her name.

A community organizer, Poindexter, a transgender woman, had long wanted to ensure that official documents matched her gender identity. Poindexter eventually wanted to buy a property. She wanted to vote without being faced with questions about mismatched credentials. (Michigan requires photo ID to vote, but the Williams Institute considers the state to have a soft law because it allows a voter without ID to sign an affidavit.)

But just having up-to-date identity papers was important to Poindexter.

“It may be trivial for someone else. But I pay my taxes. I pay my bills. I manage and lead my household. I am here for my family. So if all of these paths lead to humanity and being a human being, I certainly have documents, IDs and personal documents that match my presentation,” she told The 19th. . “It means the world to me.”

But the attorney Poindexter contacted offered a high estimate: $3,600 for a down payment, and more for any court appearances and filings.

“I just thought it was ridiculous,” she said.

Most states and the District of Columbia require voter registration to match a legal name; some states require proof of gender affirmation surgery to update the gender marker on a birth certificate. In others, a person may be required to place an advertisement in the newspaper to change their name – a practice that promotes concern may put a person at risk of physical harm or harassment.

According to an estimate by HeadCount, a nonpartisan organization that conducts voter registration campaigns, 30% of trans people have reported verbal harassment when they generally identify with a name or gender that doesn’t match. to their gender presentation.

The Williams Institute has tracked the potential impact of voter ID laws on trans people every election year since 2012. But its methodology for measuring the impact has evolved, including how it categorizes states with policies. different. It is difficult to compare the latest report to previous ones.

“The biggest change over time in this area has been the availability of data. That’s the constant problem,” O’Neill said. “It’s something that has improved a lot recently.”

Poindexter had already begun looking into the legal name change process in 2020, but the pandemic halted its efforts. After her experience with the lawyer, she thought she could start the process over on her own. Through her community, she was connected with someone from VoteRiders, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that helps people get ID to vote. A group organizer more recently helped Poindexter with the paperwork.

Poindexter, who plans to vote by mail this year, declined to share further details about his case, to reduce the risk of public harassment. But she expressed her gratitude to VoteRiders and her concern for others who may not know how to get a second opinion on something like potential legal fees.

“I see how intimidating it would be to another young woman, young man or person, period,” she said.

Lauren Kunis, CEO and executive director of VoteRiders, said the group works primarily on voter ID education and voter ID assistance. This election cycle, they are focusing on eight states that either have voter ID laws or pending ID policy, or that they deem competitive: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina , Texas and Wisconsin.

Their assistance with voter identification can include pro bono legal assistance to people who need to obtain a name change or update a gender marker to obtain identification. The group also pays for travel to and from ID issuing offices.

“We want to ensure that any legal, bureaucratic or financial hurdles a voter might face in obtaining an acceptable ID is removed and their voice can be heard at the polls,” Kunis said.

This not only includes trans people, but also others who may face barriers related to paperwork. The group believes voter ID laws have a disproportionate impact on women because many change their names when they marry. This means they may have conflicting name information on a driver’s license or voter registration.

“It is estimated that 70% of women change their name when they get married,” she said. “So they face a lot of challenges when the ID on their driver’s license that they show on the ballot doesn’t match the name on their voter registration since they were 18.”

The Williams Institute report notes research that shows trans people of color who are older, homeless or low-income are less likely to have identification.

Yet efforts to measure the impact of voter ID laws on voter turnout have been mixed, in part because numerous studies were conducted before states enacted the most stringent ID requirements. – often rules that require photo ID with few or no alternatives available. Not all voter ID rules are the same, and some provide flexibility so a voter can still vote if they don’t have ID.

More importantly, there has been no thorough examination of the effect of voter ID laws on trans people. Kunis with VoteRiders said his team of two dozen worked across the country and spoke with people daily about voter identities.

“What we know from the feedback we get from the communities we serve is that these laws confuse voters, intimidate them and deter them from voting,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that’s hard to quantify.”

Originally published by The 19th.


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