Alex Blaze

Texas Voter ID Law Will Disenfranchise Transgender People

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 25, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: election campaigns, gender, identity, law, people, Texas, transgender, vote, voting

The Texas house just passed a bill requiring voters to present identification at the polls, harsher than any state has passed in recent years, including Indiana.

vote-sticker.jpgThe goal of these sorts of laws is to decrease the number of voters and myths like the existence of massive voter fraud schemes that steal elections are used to justify them. And when people spend a lot of time and money trying to get people to believe that a nonexistent problem exists, and then their solution to said nonexistent problem is something that doesn't even fully solve the problem but advances their own agenda, people should be suspicious.

Especially since the law in Texas is arbitrary in terms of which forms of ID are accepted, excluding student ID but allowing concealed carry permits while not requiring any ID from people born before 1931, and since Texas Republicans are advocating nothing to lift any of the other barriers associated with voting, it's hard to take these folks at their word that the bill is about nothing other than making democracy function better.

Requiring people to have another piece of paperwork to go vote, in and of itself, is a barrier to voting. Whether it's a big barrier or a small barrier depends on your perspective and experiences while voting and what the state does to help people get past it, but at this point the debate is about how many people will be disenfranchised by these laws, not whether there will be such people. The League of Women Voters estimates that 11% of voters don't have the ID required to vote under Georgia's law, which was less strict than Texas's law.

And one group of people particularly affected are transgender people. A Texas trans org is speaking out against the law:

Lisa Scheps, former executive director of TENT, said the law would have a tremendous effect on transgender people.

"So many times transgender people are cross-identified," Scheps said.

If the photo on a government-issued identification doesn't match someone's presentation, the ID will be questioned and the person may be denied the right to vote, she said. While the transgender community wasn't the main target of this legislation, she said many in the community will be affected.

The same thing was said back when the Supreme Court declared these sorts of laws constitutional back when all the hub-bub was focused on Indiana:

To that end, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) issued a statement critical of the Supreme Court ruling. "NCTE is disappointed in the decision because the law places unnecessarily high burdens on citizens who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote," the statement read. "The law disproportionately affects poor, older, and minority populations, and is an obvious attempt to suppress voter participation," NCTE added.

Depending on where one lives, getting a state driver's license with the correct gender marker and name can be fairly hard. In a state like Texas, whose rules governing transition and the surrounding paperwork are up in the air right now, it can be enough to disenfranchise people. And if someone hasn't gone through changing their paperwork, for whatever reason, showing up looking like one gender but having to show someone you don't know ID that says you're another in front of a crowd of agitated people you don't know, it can be enough to make people ask, "Why bother?"

The silver lining here is that this law has to be approved by the Department of Justice because of Texas's and several other states' history with making sure only the right people show up to vote.

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Here in Georgia, my girlfriend, Darlene, has a legal female name and an "M" on her driver's license. Those who have met her can say she passes easily as a woman. She voted in the last election and had to show her driver's license and nothing happened. Part of it is that the sex marker on our driver's license is very tiny and unless a person specifically looks for it, they will glance right by looking at the parts that are important when voting, the name and the picture. It's not a perfect system, but I have yet to hear of any trans people having a problem voting here in GA.

However, our law sucks and it appears the Texas law will suck even more.

Thanks for telling us about how that's turned out. I was wondering, but I don't know many people in Indiana anymore.

Om Kalthoum | March 25, 2011 1:10 PM
And if someone hasn't gone through changing their paperwork, for whatever reason, showing up looking like one gender but having to show someone you don't know ID that says you're another in front of a crowd of agitated people you don't know, it can be enough to make people ask, "Why bother?"

Terrible example. Let's watch Fred Smith show up to vote:

Election Judge: Hi! Name please?

Fred Smith: Hi. Fred Smith. 123 Main Street.

Judge: Hmm. I can't find any record for you. Have you moved recently? You might be in the wrong precinct.

Fred (pointing to the loose leaf records the judge is thumbing through): There! That's me. (Lowers voice) Ann Smith. I used to be Ann, now I'm Fred, but I just haven't gotten around to changing my paperwork yet.

Can we stop right here? I mean, really. The record is for a woman and a man shows up to vote?

But maybe you mean Fred has changed his voter's registration, but hasn't changed the gender on his ID? He changed his name from Ann to Fred but didn't change his gender marker on his ID? Huh? I've gotta say, the onus is on Fred to straighten out his issues, not the state. And surely not the lowly election judge.

Anyway, my impression is that voter fraud - at least the sort where one person in person fraudulently tries to vote as someone they're not - is an infinitesimally small problem. So I feel that, after being duly registered a person shouldn't have to produce any ID at all unless some legitimate question arises.

Still, in this day and age, it's bucking reality to try and argue that having some sort of official ID is a hardship. You really would have to live way off the grid not to need one. And being poor or a student makes it no less likely that you need one for other than voting purposes in your daily life. I believe all states offer an official multi-year photo ID for, on average, $5 which you can get at the same place they issue driver's licenses.

I've gotta say, the onus is on Fred to straighten out his issues, not the state. And surely not the lowly election judge.

Absolutely. But the punishment for not straightening them out in a timely fashion shouldn't be disenfranchisement.

Still, in this day and age, it's bucking reality to try and argue that having some sort of official ID is a hardship. You really would have to live way off the grid not to need one.

11% of people are estimated not to have one that meets Georgia's more lax requirements (because these states don't accept every form of ID), so I don't think it's so much living off the grid as it is just not having a car or doing much international travel and therefore no acceptable ID.

Plus, the state-issued ID you mention would have been struck down by the Court as onerous back in the 60's when Virginia's $1.50 poll tax was struck down. $5 isn't much, but it's also getting the paperwork in order, getting a birth certificate that can cost a few dozen dollars, getting transport to a city that has a DMV, etc.

Of course, in 2007 with our current Supreme Court it was found perfectly acceptable. Oh well.

People should have ID, I agree, and could even agree with these laws if something was done to make getting ID easier and something they'd think about in advance. But it's not so much a given in the US. Not like here, where even I have state-issued photo ID and I'm not even on a residency card, much less a citizen. Everyone gets one from birth to death that has to be renewed every 10 years or else pretty much everything else falls apart. It's a different mentality about what constitutes being alive that's a lot more bureaucratic, whereas in the US people still think it's their right to fall of the grid if they want to.

Plus, in the past, there may have been stipulations that the government was required to assist people to meet these standards and to do (at least) a public education campaign far in advance to ensure that everyone knew and had a chance to comply. My guess is that these laws have no such requirements.

Om Kalthoum | March 26, 2011 12:43 PM

"But the punishment for not straightening them out in a timely fashion shouldn't be disenfranchisement.

Your reasoning baffles me. Are you arguing for no personal responsibility whatsoever? How would Fred's case be any different from me, say, just showing up at the polling place on election day, telling them that I'd lived in the precinct for a couple of years and could prove it with rent receipts and utility bills, but "just hadn't gotten around to" registering yet? How dare they disenfranchise me!

By the way, in most localities Fred could ask to vote via a provisional ballot. Whether it would be counted later is another matter.

Kathy Padilla | March 25, 2011 1:58 PM

In TX - checking off your gender on your voter reg is optional. Of course most people would just fill it out and if they transitioned later - it can just be problems.

Regarding having a male name on your ID after transitioning - I'm sure some people find amusement in that situation - but it's a very real problem.

In some parts of the country legally changing your name is quite expensive. In Philly - it can run you around $1,200 for the required fillings, public notices, court costs and attorney fees - that number is from a few years back.

I lived for a few years after transitioning with my birth name on my ID - it was a problem then - it's a much bigger problem now. I simply couldn't afford the costs - and you can have a bitch of a time getting employment as a trans person - even more so without ID that matches. So - no employment means no new ID, no new ID means no employment. Rinse and repeat.


Om Kalthoum | March 25, 2011 2:26 PM

In Texas at present, a voter going to vote should bring her voter registration certificate which is then matched against the voter registration list at the polling place. Even if she doesn't have this certificate, she can still present any of the following acceptable forms of identification:

(1) a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety or similar documents from other states;
(2) a form of identification containing a photograph that establishes a person’s identity (such as an employee identification card);
(3) a birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes a person’s identity;
(4) United States citizenship papers;
(5) a United States passport;
(6) official mail addressed to the person by name from a governmental agency;
(7) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter; or
(8)any other form of identification presented by the Secretary of State’s office.

If she can't come up with one of those, I'd say she has problems an order of magnitude beyond being unable to vote.

So the new law would eliminate just using the registration certificate and take #2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and possibly 8 off that list.

Alex this is a strawman argument why argue and fight when there is no legitimate reason to do so. Everyone needs to or should carry ID with them everywhere they go. If your unwilling to carry an ID and verify who you are then don't complain when faced with the consequences. Even further why wrap all the different groups under the transgender umbrella? Please take the time to look up the origins of the word transgender and realize it is no more exceptable for you to call me that than it is for me to use any of the derogatory terms asociate with the word gay to describe you. Sure some T people feel comfortable with the word but as long as there are T people with a legitimate complaint against the word you shouldn't be using it. I would also like to point out that even spell checker is smart enough to not recognize the word transgender and I hope it remains that way.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | March 25, 2011 11:24 PM

Regarding: "transgender and realize it is no more exceptable for you to call me that than it is for me to use any of the derogatory terms asociate with the word gay to describe you."

Where does Alex say 'amym440, I'm calling you out as Transgender.' Seems like you assumed on that one, or you are a trans person and it applies. Either way come off it.

Sigh...a freaking article regarding ID req changes that may negatively affect the T portion of LGBT and you choose to bring up that 'transgender vs whatever-trans-flavor-you-are' argument. Nice...way to make it about you and sweet derail.

Sorry but I don't see it as being a nice derail I see it as the truth.Are you TS or TG? Do you know the origins of the word and how negatively applied it was towards transsexuals? Then if you do then you should know better than to think it is your right to hang that label on me. As for Alex he should know that if a word has tainted roots it shouldn't be used especially by those who weren't subjected to its negative effects towards those who were. You might not like it but I'm taking away the LGB permission slip to use the word transgender. Also I'm working to take away the automatic assumption that someone who is trans anything by default is attached to the LGB. Don't like it find a new word to hang on the LGB that excludes heterosexual T's unless they specifically choose to be associate with it and one that doesn't have such a terrible past.

Oh please, allow me to bask in your obviousy superior HBS glory, and oh please pick, and choose which words I am allowed to use when writing or talking

I obviously disagree regarding ID, but something tells me we won't get anywhere on that topic. Sure, people should have ID, but when not every ID that people could have is accepted here and the US really doesn't have a that sort of bureaucratic culture where people necessarily have that ID for their daily lives, it's not surprising that 11% of people don't have the ID needed.

Plus, no, in the US people aren't required to carry ID with them everywhere they go. I've lived in that country so I know. :)

And at the risk of encouraging a thread-jack... I've wondered about this:

as long as there are T people with a legitimate complaint against the word you shouldn't be using it.

There are men who love men with complaints against "homosexual," "gay," "queer," etc. There are women who love women with complaints against "queer," "homosexual," "gay," "lesbian," etc. There are people who love both with complaints against "bisexual," "queer," "omnisexual," etc. Plus there are a lot of us who don't like alphabetic expressions like "LGB" or "LGBT."

By the standard of "If there are people who don't like a word no one can use it," no one could use any words.

Also, what word should have been used in this post to describe "People who don't identify as the gender assigned to them at birth and therefore don't present as such"? "Transsexual" excludes some people, etc. You use "T people," but that T has got to stand for something.

The wording for now is the easy part Alex The law could negatively effect people that are the opposite of their birth sex, those enjoy dressing as it and those somewhere in the middle. It might not include a single catch all phrase but it also doesn't exclude anyone or put it a way that should offend anyone. As for your use of gay slang how many of the gay people would be more incensed about a heterosexual person calling them that than a gay man? I am a fully diagnosed and living full time ts woman yet I am still called a crossdressing man by some and compared to them on some scales. As I'm sure your well aware those of us who are also heterosexually oriented are considered to be gay male crossdressers who try to attract straight men by some.Earlier yesterday I had the joy of being called that by a gay man even after I said that I supported gay rights. I go out all over have for years most times alone and the most and worst problems have been with gay men go figure. Now I don't want you to take it as I see you as one of them or that I think all T people share my experience and I know many that would feel lost without the gay community I'm not trying to destroy that for them. What I'm saying is there has to be a better way and one that protects heterosexual T's from being to heavily associated with being LGB. One that acknowledges we exist and that supports our contention that we are not gay men and in fact that we are straight women who had the unique experience of having been born male. Those who say I need same sex marriage to protect my marriage don't get that it wouldn't be a victory for me instead it is just another confirmation of the man in the dress scenario. Just like civil unions aren't the same as marriage for L and G people it is only a confirmation that they still are viewed as less than.I spent my whole day arguing with what are supposed to be my allies because they chose to label a movie about Transgender people Genderf*ckation and the producer has the balls to call all TS people gender non conforming. How does labelling all T people as gender non conforming advance my rights to be recognized as a woman and to be married to a man as one? This is being promoted and played at the local gay club. Seriously Alex I want to be able to be an allie to the gay community but days like yesterday are telling me I might have to drive a wedge that can't be removed between myself and them and I really hate to think it has to come that. I have tried reaching out and explaining why these issues need to be addressed and it falls on deaf ears for the most part.Or I get the Mara Keislings that tell me I should be ashamed to go into T places. Seriously Alex where I'm at with the whole TG thing is no place for anyone to have to be.


So, how often do you use a spellchecker anyhow, Amy?

I am grateful that for once instead of picking my points apart you only took exception to one part of it. Generally I only use spell checker when it is available through the posting site or when I write a college paper and occasionally I use an editor for stories I post. If you take a look at the time I made that posting it was early morning and I had been up all night. Like many maybe yourself included I've lost plenty of sleep over the issues involving all of us. Wouldn't it be nice if we could come up with some sort of agreement that made it so that we only lose sleep from issues caused by people outside our supposed community?

I'm not interested in picking apart your points, Amy, I have come to find you quite entertaining. Plus, I have to admire someone so resolutely single-minded and deluded.

I have to say, no, though, I don't spend much time thinking about gay or trans issues anymore. I do wonder sometimes why trans ppl expect gay and lesbian ppl to support trans rights. Gay ppl really have their own issues and priorities, which are very different from what most trans ppl want and need. To me, trans ppl would be better off just going their own way and lobbying for what they need.

Your words: I have to say, no, though, I don't spend much time thinking about gay or trans issues anymore.
Your posts at Bilerico betray you. But please stick around I find you entertaining also although it is rather difficult being as I'm single minded and deluded. :)

Cynthia I don't care if you want to call yourself transgender what I'm saying is that you can't call me that because I reject the word due its history. I have never been comfortable with the use of the word transgender and became even less comfortable when its use to include transsexuals was began in the late 1990's early 2000's. I'm not an HBS nor am I anti gay. I simply want the right to choose the labels that are applied to me and I don't want people that haven't had to experience the oppresion of the word transgender to use it towards me. By now anyone who writes posts here should know plenty of T people are unhappy with the word and why. So if they know a large portion hate the word and they know it was used in a dreogatory manner they should know its use is not acceptable universally and should stop using it.Its called common courtesy and while you might not like it, its a good thing.Find a new word before you wind up with egg on yourface because the word transgender goes down in flames.I am seriously thinking about complaining to the ACLU about its use and the automatic assumption that every T is associated with being gay or supporting the gay community because the T is attached to the LGB. I support the gay community because I want to, I want them to support me not because there exists a T on the end of the LGB but because they want to.To move to the next level the LGB has to do away with the T and absorb LGB T's into the LGB.Other wise they are discriminating just as badly as they claim to be fighting on our behalf.Like I said if you want to cling to your T identity find a special word for it like clingon only nicer. Or if you want to mix your gender identity with your sexual orientation fine but find a word that doesn't associate all T's with it only those who accept it of their own free will.

Kerri Ellen | March 26, 2011 7:55 AM

I understand the problem. I live in PA. too. When I was transitioning a couple of years back MtF, I found out that there were no simple solutions to getting accurate ID. From the day I filed to change my name until I was finally allowed to change my name to a female-appropriate name, I spent nearly $1,500.00, had to fight the State Police who held my finger-print records for months (proving I had no criminal record); I had to have my state representative intervene to compel the State Police to release my records (as they were required to within 60 days, but refused to comply with); after acting "pro se" for months, I had to throw in the towel and hire an attorney to move my case when a conservative judge consistently refused to move my case and permit my name change; and the end-result was that for about a year I was "out-of-status" as far as having accurate ID. I can well understand how "undocumented aliens" feel, because for all that time I was de facto an "undocumented American." I was fortunate in that I live in a small election district and the election board knew me personally so they never made an issue of it. But it made my life hell as I faced daily discrimination on an entire host of issues, when all I wanted to do was live my life.

Jaime Dunaway Jaime Dunaway | March 26, 2011 2:51 PM

Here in NC, it was pretty easy to change my name, just paid my lawyer $250 and his office took care of it with the clerk of court. As for voter registration, I didn't even have to show id to change mine to my new name and I left it ungendered since my id still has that dreadful M on it until I can have surgery. We don't have to show id at the poll here, but they've known me for years, before and after transition, so besides a little occasional misgendering in personal comments to me, which I just try to ignore, its been no issues. In fact, most stuff I've done concerning name change hasn't been an issue except for minor confusion due to their not understanding initially that I was the person whose former name was originally on the documents.

And I'm not getting why the whole transgendered vs transsexual thing came up on this. Its getting a bit tiring to see it take over so many trans topics on here and other sites.

I find it interesting that every time there is an article of interest to gender variant persons, the comments eventually turn to semantics. This time it was the tenth comment that found an issue with "transgender." I continue to hope that some day we get beyond that.

Lets focus on the fact that the Republicans are trying to find any excuse to disenfranchise people who will vote in large numbers against them next year.

They know that African Americans damned sure will be at the polls in 2012 to ensure that they do their part to help President Obama get a second term. Anything they can do to help disenfranchise people and force them to cast provisional ballots instead of regular ballots is a plus for them.

LOL, OMG. This is the lamest article I've ever read. All the freak has to say is "Dude, I'm actually a guy," and then show his weenie to vote, LMAO.


The better argument would be that the state's interest in preventing undocumented voter fraud is insufficient to justify an impediment to one's right to vote. Then analogize the state's insufficient interest in preventing corruption to the same interest the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Citizens United v. FEC. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government interest in preventing corruption or the appearance thereof was insufficient to restrict "free speech" in the form of campaign contributions.

But the argument you make in this article is lame as dogsh**. I would consider law school if you want to intelligibly defend people.

Duncan O'Neil | April 16, 2011 6:03 PM

How come NONE of these stories ever include the reference to the law itself? Could that be because they don't want you to read the actual law?

While we've gone down the road here of how this law will impact transfolks (is that term OK?), it will have an even larger impact on poor folks, the majority of which here in Texas are either brown or black and who are most likely to vote Democrat, regardless of color. THOSE are the people that this law is aimed at disenfranchising. The fact that it will also negatively impact some portion of the trans* (is that term OK?) "community" is just icing on the conservative cake.

And FWIW, I changed both my name and my gender marker here in Texas without having an attorney or reassignment/rearrangement surgery. I wrote about how to do it on my blog, in case anyone else is interested.