There are many states where trans voters could face difficulties this Election Day. Now a Tea Party-affiliated group who is training so-called poll watchers has deliberately earmarked trans people as those who should be challenged over voter fraud.
The group, the Texas-based True the Vote, has already been accused of partisan, and even racist, motivations behind its dispatching of poll watchers to primarily Democratic, and often African American, strongholds.
With the publication of True the Vote’s Virginia poll watcher guide, another group seems to have been targeted: trans citizens.
“It is disgraceful that True the Vote would try to thug anyone into not voting. True the Vote’s true agenda is a shameful attempt to scare trans people away from participating in our democracy,” said Mara Keisling, head of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a release.
Keisling is referring to the following, clearly transphobic, picture from True the Vote’s Virginia poll watcher guide:
True the Vote, an off-shoot of the King Street Patriots, has billed itself as a non-partisan, somewhat reformist group who, trading on nations of widespread voter fraud, wants to train the public to take up positions in states that allow poll watchers. They have faced widespread accusations of in fact being a shill to the anti-immigrant forces currently infesting the Republican Party.
The Virginia guide itself does not explicitly mention trans people, but the above element of its cover image does all the talking that is necessary when it comes to how they perceive gender variant and trans people.
True the Vote has always insisted it is non-partisan, and indeed the guide itself also stresses the importance of a non-partisan approach to poll watching, but the overtly hostile way in which the group has pursued, and indeed propagated, unsubstantiated notions of (nearly always liberal) mass voter fraud, and its established history of labeling African Americans as possible fraudsters, suggests otherwise.
Will this potential attack on trans people put the community off from voting? No, says Keisling.
“Trans people are resilient. For trans people, voting is not just a right and a responsibility, for us it is also an important part of how we are winning our equality. Scare tactics like this won’t keep us from that.”
There have, of course, been wider concerns floated about the True the Vote campaign, and there have been several complaints made by voter rights groups who charge that the Virginia-specific training guide seems to mislead on vital details.
One they pinpoint is a section on when polls close – they’re open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day – advising that people who vote after polls close should cast a provisional ballot that’s kept separate from other votes. The manual also notes that Virginia law allows anyone in line by the time polls close to vote.
That’s a conflicting message that could cause problems at the polls, according to some who signed the letter.
Another complaint is that the wording in the manual on voter identification laws is imprecise, given changes Virginia made to its law this year.
“Our concern with the guide is if it’s not made explicitly clear what the law is in Virginia, it could hold up lines on Election Day and lead to voter confusion” and disruption, said Courtney Mills, a staff attorney with the Fair Elections Legal Network.
True the Vote is also currently the subject of an ethics complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice who assert that True the Vote has made unlawful donations to Republican candidates and the Party’s causes.
Recent revelations suggest the group may have donated as much as $5,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee. It’s not an illegal contribution, but it does seem to demonstrate the group has picked a side which, in turn, would denote a violation of their nonpartisan pretense.
The NCTE has issued a message urging all transgender and gender non-conforming Americans to ignore True the Vote’s “shameful and unamerican attacks,” and vote this Election Day.
The NCTE has prepared a handy one-page checklist for trans people who are concerned about their voting rights that is designed to make sure you are prepared come voting day. Click here for that and other resources.
Image credit: Thinkstock.