Adam Polaski

Voter ID Laws May Disenfranchise Trans Community

Filed By Adam Polaski | September 29, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Brennan Center, Campus Progress, trans people, voter disenfranchisement, Voter ID

Vote.jpgIn the past few months, news of the unconstitutional realities of "Voter ID" laws has spread across the United States. These laws, already passed in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee, and Wisconsin (with laws pending approval in Texas and South Carolina) require citizens to present a valid form of photo identification in order to vote in elections.

Valid photo IDs include drivers' licenses, passports, and student ID cards. Millions of potential voters throughout the country have perfectly legitimate reasons for not having these forms of ID - poor people, the elderly, young people, people of color, urban residents, and people from low-income families.

The "rationale" for the laws, echoed by many conservatives, is that voter fraud is a scary reality, and that the photo ID requirement is a perfectly acceptable solution to combatting voter fraud. In reality, there is almost no documentation to support the notion that voter fraud - where someone votes in place of someone else - plays a significant role in elections. "Voter ID" laws, therefore, actually work to marginalize more voters than they do to protect the electoral process. By effectively eliminating the right for ID-less communities to vote - communities that skew toward progressive views and voting patterns - the ID laws push these groups of people to the side.

Another group of people that could be - intentionally or not - affected by the voter ID laws is the transgender community.

Sam Menefee-Libey has more at Campus Progress, which has been covering Voter ID laws and voter disenfranchisement for several months:

Transgender Americans face an unemployment rate twice the national average, meaning their access to a steady income and a stable residence is much lower. This makes it particularly challenging for transgender people to meet the stringent criteria of Voter ID laws.

According to the Brennan Center, approximately 12 percent of voting-eligible people in the U.S.--about 21 million people--lack a current government-issued photo ID. That figure disproportionately includes people of color, senior citizens, young voters, the working poor, and people with disabilities.

It's a well-documented fact that transgender Americans face daily problems with identity documents, exponentially compounding the difficulties mentioned above.

Just 59 percent of transgender people reported updating their driver's license or state ID. It's even less likely they're carrying updated documents like passports, Social Security cards, or student records. And transgender people of color and low-income transgender persons report even lower rates of updating identification.

Check out all of Menefee-Libey's reporting on the issue at Campus Progress.

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Adam, thank you for bringing this up. I live in Georgia and it has already caused some problems. At least we have some allies in this fight.

Any state that enacts an ID requirement ought to make it less onerous for trans people to obtain proper identification.