Thousands More Transgender Voters Disenfranchised By New Voter ID Laws

Voters in Arkansas and North Carolina on Tuesday passed ballot measures that require voters to present ID at the polls during future elections, bringing the total number of U.S. states with voter ID laws to 36.

In North Carolina, according to the AP-fueled election tracker at the New York Times, a voter ID requirement passed by a 10-point margin, with around 55 percent of North Carolinians saying “yes” to ID requirements at the polls.

In Arkansas, a similar ballot measure won by a landslide: around 80 percent of state residents said ID should be required before people can vote there in future elections.

Voter ID laws have been proven to increase obstacles to voting among Black and Latino communities, increase voter disenfranchisement among the elderly and students, and people experiencing homelessness and poverty. 

But voter ID laws also impact transgender Americans at high rates; according to a Williams Institute report released this August, an estimated 78,000 trans people may have been unable to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections. At the time the study was published, 34 U.S. states had voter ID laws on the books. Tonight, that number just went up.

Transgender people can face obstacles when it comes to getting ID, period. An estimated 46 percent of trans adults do not have identity documents that reflect their current gender identity, according to data from the National Center for Transgender Equality’s landmark 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

In most states with voter ID laws, if a poll worker determines that a person’s ID card does not match their identity (for example, their gender or the way they look), the voter can be turned away from the polling station and denied the right to vote.

In an interview with INTO last week, Equality North Carolina’s director of transgender policy Ames Simmons said “Many trans people do not have an ID that reflects the name and gender that they identify with. That means that trans people will — like many marginalized communities in North Carolina—potentially face difficulties when they try to vote.”

In Arkansas, the new voter ID law comes as a bit of a surprise given that the state’s supreme court struck down a similar proposal in 2014, ruling that requiring ID in order to vote in elections violated the state constitution.

Image via Getty


Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is Associate Editor of INTO.

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