Research at UCLA School of Law estimates ‘strict’ ID laws could ‘disenfranchise’ 78,000 transgender voters

Celine Ryan, Campus Reform

  • A research institute at the  estimates that at least 78,000 transgender individuals could face “disenfranchisement” due to “strict” voter ID laws in 8 states.
  • The report argues that obtaining an accurate ID after gender transition “can be difficult and expensive,” though 7 of the states that it cites actually offer free identification cards for the purpose of voting.

A University of California, Los Angeles research institute has issued a report suggesting that voter ID laws discriminate against transgender voters.

The report released by the Williams Institute—a research institute at the UCLA School of Law that focuses largely on the LGBT community and “the impact of law and policy on their health and well-being”—identifies eight states with “strict voter ID laws” that could potentially disenfranchise people whose government-issued identification does not accurately reflect their chosen gender.

The institute asserts that voter ID laws could prevent at least 78,000 transgender individuals from voting in the 2018 elections because “transgender people who have transitioned often face substantial challenges to obtaining accurate identification” that “accurately reflects their gender.”

The authors of the report contend that the process of obtaining an accurate ID after gender transition “can be difficult and expensive,” and therefore “strict” voter ID laws—or “laws that require voters provide a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport or military ID, in order to vote at the polls”—cause transgender individuals to “face barriers to voting and possible disenfranchisement.”

A corresponding press release notes that the difficulty is compounded for transgender people of color, young adults, students, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities, saying such individuals are likely “overrepresented” among those who may face barriers to voting in November.

“In order for these 78,000 voting-eligible transgender people to obtain the updated IDs required to vote in the November 2018 general election, they must comply with official requirements for updating their state-issued or federally-issued IDs,” the report explains. “These requirements vary widely by state and by federal agency and can be difficult and costly to meet. Voter ID laws, therefore, create a unique barrier to voting for a substantial number of transgender people.”

The paper asserts that the problem has grown more acute in recent years, noting that this year’s estimate is significantly higher than those issued for previous elections.

In 2014, for instance, the Williams Institute projected that about 24,000 transgender people could be impacted by strict voter ID laws, a figure that rose to 34,000 for the 2016 election.

The report calls out eight specific states with “strict” photo ID requirements: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Seven of these states offer free IDs to residents for voting purposes, but Virginia residents must purchase an identification card for between $10 and $16 in order to cast a ballot.

The report does not suggest any specific solutions to the issue, but in a statement to Campus Reform, Williams Institute public policy scholar Jody Herman proposed that “lawmakers, election officials, and government agencies should work to make the process of updating ID documents less costly and burdensome for transgender people and make sure that eligible voters will not be disenfranchised by voter ID laws.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan

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