Election Commentary

Is voter supression going to prevent trans citizens from exercising their rights?

Is voter supression going to prevent trans citizens from exercising their rights?

Voter suppression has become a go-to tactic of Republicans who are seeing their voter base shrinking. Suburban women and young people are increasingly abandoning the party, and its flirtation with white nationalism is a losing prospect in an increasingly diverse nation.

While most the GOP’s focus has been on minority voters, one group likely to suffer as well are transgender voters. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, photo ID laws could disenfranchise thousands of transgender citizens if their identification doesn’t reflect their preferred gender and name–a change that some states make difficult.

Related: Pentagon-funded study shows troops mostly oppose Trump’s transgender military ban

Assuming the worst case, the Institute estimates that as many as 378,000 transgender Americans could have a problem voting. The issue is particularly acute in the 12, mostly southern states with strict voter ID laws, although even in states where photo ID requirements aren’t as strict, transgender voters still face barriers.

“Many transgender people who live in accordance with their gender identity do not have ID documents that accurately reflect their correct name and gender,” the report states.

Photo ID requires would-be voters to prove they are who their identification says they are–and that includes their gender. If someone registers to vote under one gender but subsequently transitions, the photo ID had better match. If not, poll workers can turn the voter aside.

Adding to the problem: the process of changing public documents can be onerous and expensive.

None of these issues are hypothetical. Poll workers have refused transgender voters their rights before.

Of course, from the perspective of the Republican and conservative lawmakers who pass these laws and benefit from them the most, this is a bonus. GOP voter suppression targets Black people the most, and has been conducted with what one court called “surgical precision” – but any laws that make it impossible for transgender citizens to vote as well are only going to make Republicans happy, since they suspect that transgender voters are overwhelmingly Democrats. That’s especially true in 2020, given the president’s ceaseless attacks on transgender rights.

Whether the actual number of potentially disenfranchised voters approaches anything close to 378,000 is open to debate. The Williams Institute came up with the absolute worst possible scenario. The numbers are probably much smaller.

But that’s not what’s important. The systematic disenfranchising of trans voters—or any voters at all—is an offense against democracy. Unfortunately, that’s the mission of the modern Republican Party.

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