LA opens historic polling place in a trans community center

Just in time for Tuesday’s primary elections, Los Angeles opened the first voting location inside a trans community center. While the voting center is open to everyone, its purpose is to empower trans, nonbinary and queer voters.

The polling place opened in the Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center (CONOTEC) on March 2 and closed on March 5. It will reopen in time for the general election in November.

“I couldn’t be prouder that L.A.’s Fifth Council District is now home to the first voting center in the nation located in a transgender facility,” City Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky said in a statement, per Los Angeles Daily News.

“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. I want to thank CONOTEC for opening this voting center and for the critical work they do every day to support the needs of the Los Angeles transgender and nonbinary community.”

California Lt Gov Eleni Kounalakis called the polling place “a significant milestone in our efforts to champion equality, inclusivity and LGBTQA+ rights in California.

“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.”

The historic voting center comes at a time when Republicans are pushing for stricter voter ID laws while also making it harder for trans people to change their IDs. A mismatch between an ID and how someone presents can be grounds for dismissal at the polls.

Following the 2022 midterms, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that of the approximate 878,300 eligible trans voters in the country, over 200,000 were at risk of disenfranchisement for living in states with harsh voter ID laws.

Queen Chela Demuir — founder of the Unique Woman’s Coalition and the international vice president of FLUX, both of which operate out of CONOTEC — spoke on the need for trans voices at the ballot box.

“In a time when our trans and nonbinary siblings are having to face elements of erasure with legislation, it’s important that we speak up,” Demuir told LAist. “It’s important for us to go to the polls, go to the voting places, and cast those votes against those legislations that want to bind us, and prevent us from being who we are.”

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