Tens of thousands of transgender voters may not be heard at the polls because of strict photo identification rules in nine, mostly conservative, states.
The findings were uncovered by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, and released Thursday at the organization's 11th annual conference.
In states with strict photo ID requirements, individuals without such identification must provide an alternate form of ID and only then are allowed to vote in a provisional ballot. This is a frequent issue with transgender voters, as it is often difficult to obtain identification that matches one's gender identity — many states require gender reassignment surgery to alter the sex on one's driver's license. And often the names of transgender individuals change when they transition, which adds further complications. According to the Williams Institute report, 41% of transgender citizens who've transitioned reported not having an updated driver's license and 74% did not have an updated U.S. passport.
Being forced to jump through hoops in order to vote discourages many potential voters. The Williams Institute believes 25,000 transgender voters are affected by strict photo ID laws in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. These voters may not reach the polls in the November 2012 election, where not only the president will be chosen, but hundreds of state and local decisions must be made.
"As election officials in these states begin planning for their fall elections, this research highlights the importance of educating poll workers in order to ensure that transgender voters in their states have fair access to the ballot," the study's author Jody Herman said in a statement.