Stricter ID laws pose barriers for transgender Americans

Elections 2022

A person holds a transgender pride flag as people gather on Christopher Street outside the Stonewall Inn for a rally to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, June 28, 2019. – The June 1969 riots, sparked by repeated police raids on the Stonewall Inn — a well-known gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village — proved to be a turning point in the LGBTQ community’s struggle for civil rights. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — A slew of states have passed stricter voting laws since the 2020 presidential election, changes that may disproportionately impact transgender people trying to vote in the midterms.  

A new study shows 43% of voter-eligible transgender people lack identity documents reflecting their correct name or gender, USA Today reports. (This study looked at states holding elections primarily in-person and those that require an ID.)  

That means more than 200,000 people could face hurdles voting in local and state elections, experts say. And the ramifications are not just political, says Henry Seaton, a transgender activist. It can be unsafe when your appearance doesn’t match your ID or name.

“I had to out myself as transgender,” the 24-year-old said when describing his voting experience in the 2016 election to NBC. “It’s terrifying to have to do that — to try to read the room and see, like, are they going to kick me out? It can be really dehumanizing to have your whole identity nitpicked just so that you can cast your ballot and have your voice be heard.” 

Since 2020, states have enacted more than 30 new voting restriction laws, Reuters reports, including voter ID requirements and limits on mail-in voting. Largely led by Republicans, these lawmakers say the measures are “necessary to ensure election integrity,” despite widespread evidence that voter fraud is extremely rare

LBGTQ advocates say the stakes of missing transgender votes are high, especially for children.

“(LGBTQ candidates) know that they need to be in office at every level, including school boards, to make decisions about kids and the possibility of losing rights of trans youth,” political science professor Gabriele Magni told Al Jazeera.

State legislators filed 238 bills restricting LGBTQ rights in just the first three months of 2022, according to an NBC analysis. About 180 of those bills have specifically targeted transgender people, according to the GLADD advocacy group. That includes restrictions on children accessing gender-affirming health care, an issue that rose again to national prominence after a Texas federal court ruling earlier this year.

Also on the ballot in many states: Deciding how children learn LGBTQ history in school, an extremely divisive topic, according to a survey by The New York Times, which found 43% of parents for and 40% against such teaching. 

Meanwhile, the weeks leading up to the election saw a ramp up of ads against transgender rights in critical swing states.

LGBTQ people are on the ballot in every state for the first time, according to The Hill. Multiple openly queer House representatives are up for re-election — and facing races currently too close to call.

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