The passage of strict voter ID laws has been widely discussed for their impact on black and Latino voters, elderly and student voters, women and those with low incomes. As many as five million people have been estimated as likely to lose their voting rights because of the laws.
But there is another impacted group: transgender people.
A new report, ‘The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters‘ [PDF], by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s law school, says that up to 25,000 transgender Americans could be effected.
Transgender citizens have everyday problems obtaining and updating any identification cards — and this includes when they have to deal with the government.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey shows that 22% of respondents said they had been denied equal treatment by a government agency or official, with another 22% saying they had been harassed or disrespected in the same setting. 41% said that when they presented their non-gender-matching ID when asked to show it — at, for example, a bar or an airport — they were harassed, some reported being even attacked or assaulted.
Only 59% of survey respondents had been able to update their gender on their driver’s license or state ID; 49% their Social Security Record; 26% their passport; and just 24% their birth certificate.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) says:
The survey results … confirmed what most trans people already knew — that gender incongruent identification exposes people to a range of negative outcomes, from denial of employment, housing, and public benefits to harassment and physical violence.
Historically, state and federal governments have imposed intrusive and burdensome requirements — such as proof of surgery and court orders — that have made it impossible for many trans people to obtain accurate and consistent ID. For many people financial barriers, medical contraindications or the simple lack of medical need for surgeries make these requirements impossible to satisfy.
The Williams Institute estimated that about 88,000 transgender citizens could vote in states with Voter ID laws and that about one third could lose their vote.
“There are a myriad of state and federal laws that govern whether or how transgender citizens can update their IDs, and some of these requirements are very difficult to meet and incredibly costly,” Jody L. Herman, author of the report, told Colorlines.
“Not only is there the emotional and psychological aspects, but also onerous requirements, such as the requirement to have had a certain kind of surgery, and some transgender citizens can’t afford it because it’s not covered by health insurance, while some simply don’t want it.”
A $50,000 cost for surgery in order to vote? That is some giant poll tax.
Picture by Luminis Kanto