Election 2024

Trans folks in LA can safely cast their ballots at the country’s first trans voting center

Photo: Shutterstock

The GOP primary is in full swing across the country, and one county is taking extra steps to protect the rights of trans voters.

The Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center (CONOTEC) in Los Angeles County, California has opened the first voting center located within a transgender establishment. Voting has been open at CONOTEC since March 2 and will end today with Super Tuesday before reopening for the general election in November.

While all voters can cast a ballot there – since the county does not require voters to visit a specific center based on their address – it was established especially for trans folks to have a safe space to perform their civic duty.

CONOTEC is open for voting until 8 p.m. today and will reportedly have refreshments, a DJ, and a photo booth to celebrate this historic day.

“The opening of the nation’s first transgender voting center today in Los Angeles marks a significant milestone in our efforts to champion equity, inclusivity, and LGBTQA+ rights in California,” Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounlakis (D) said while visiting the center, as reported by WEHO Times. “By providing a safe and affirming space for the transgender community to exercise their fundamental right to vote, we are breaking down barriers and ensuring every Californian has equal access to the ballot box.”

“As extremists across the country continue their endless attacks on both the LGBT Community and our democracy, Los Angeles must stand as a beacon of hope,” added Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky.

The opening of the voting center is especially significant as trans people across the country continue to face a slew of barriers when it comes to voting. As states continue to pass strict voter ID laws – as well as laws making it more difficult for trans folks to update their legal documents to match their lived gender – it is becoming more challenging for trans people to cast a vote.

If a trans person arrives at a polling place with a government-issued ID containing an incorrect gender marker or a name that doesn’t match their gender presentation, they may be turned away by poll workers who think they’re trying to “impersonate” another individual.

During the 2022 midterms, The Williams Institute found that out of 878,300 eligible transgender voters in the U.S., as many as 203,700 (nearly one-fourth) were at risk of being blocked from voting because their government-issued IDs did not reflect their gender identities.

Voter ID laws are promoted by their primarily Republican sponsors as a way to protect against voter fraud, a nearly non-existent problem in the United States, despite the hype. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and The Brennan Center for Justice have called voter ID laws a form of “voter suppression” that mostly disenfranchises Democratic voters.

Trans folks have even faced barriers in states without voter ID laws. In 2019, for example, a trans woman said poll workers in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina singled her out and forced her to show ID when ID wasn’t required to vote in the state at the time.

The woman said she was told her “face doesn’t match [her] name.” She did eventually show her ID and was allowed to cast her ballot. But she said that she was humiliated by the experience and felt she was discriminated against.

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