By Mike Ludwig
Friday, 12 October 2012
Imagine it’s Election Day and you walk into your local polling station. Before you can get a ballot, a poll worker demands a photo ID. Luckily, you have one and remembered to bring it. You hand over a state ID, but the poll worker looks confused. The poll worker says the photo and stated gender on the ID does not match your appearance. Suddenly, a complete stranger is asking you questions about very personal aspects of your life.
Perhaps you are asked to sign an affidavit and only given a provisional ballot, or worse – you are turned away or become frustrated and leave without voting at all. This is what advocates fear could happen to thousands of transgender and gender non-conforming voters in states across the country due to controversial voter ID laws.
Under the guise of curbing the already rare occurrence of voter fraud, Republican lawmakers in several states have passed new laws requiring voters to produce a form of photo or government identification in order to vote. Many observers, including the Justice Department, say the laws do little to prevent fraud and would simply disenfranchise poor and minority voters.
In April, the Williams Institute estimated that 25,000 transgender voters living in states with strict voter ID laws would be unable to vote in upcoming elections. This number is a bit out of date because legal challenges have since postponed or overturned voter ID laws in states such as South Carolina and Pennsylvania, but thousands of trans and gender non-conforming citizens are still at risk.
“New voter ID laws have created costly barriers to voting for many trans people. And much worse, the debate about voter ID laws has made even the idea of voting harder, so many of us may feel discouraged from even trying to vote on election day,” said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).