Difficulty and danger for transgender Iowa voters

One Iowa explains why the Republican voter ID bill would threaten voting rights for transgender Iowans. -promoted by desmoinesdem

House File 516, a bill that will make photo identification a requirement for voters at the polls, is on the Iowa House floor for debate today. This bill may seem innocuous on the surface, but in fact disenfranchises many Iowa voters like people of color, people with disabilities, elderly people, and many others in the name of solving a problem (supposed voter fraud) that does not exist. Many of those people are also part of the LGBTQ community, and at One Iowa, we’re appalled that this bill would make it more difficult for them to take part in our democracy and exercise their right to vote.

Another group of voters who will face unique challenges because of this policy are transgender Iowans. Requiring a photo ID at the polls will cultivate an environment that will not only make it difficult for many transgender Iowans to vote, but potentially dangerous as well.

First, many transgender people do not have photo IDs that accurately reflect their gender. Take two of the most common photo IDs that will be accepted under the new policy: driver’s licenses and passports. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40 percent of transgender citizens who are publicly out as transgender do not have a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender, and 74 percent do not have an updated U.S. passport that accurately reflects their gender.

It can be incredibly difficult, and in fact impossible in some cases, for transgender Iowans to obtain identity documents that accurately reflect their gender due to expense, lack of knowledge of the complex process, and inconsistency in policy between states.

For example, let’s take a transgender man who was born in Ohio and is now living in Iowa. He wants to change the gender marker on his driver’s license to an “M” to accurately reflect his gender. There is a process to do that in Iowa, but it first requires a person to change the gender marker on their birth certificate before changing their driver’s license. Unfortunately, the state of Ohio has no process in place for someone to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, so this man is unable to complete that step in Iowa’s process. Through no fault of his own, this man may never be able to have an Iowa driver’s license that accurately reflects his gender. This type of situation is unfortunately commonplace for transgender people.

By requiring these hard-to-obtain documents at the polls, HF 516 could subject transgender Iowans to undue scrutiny and potential discrimination. Even worse, this bill includes language specifying that a voter can be challenged at the poll if they don’t resemble the photo on their ID document.

This provision is especially troubling because discrimination against transgender citizens when presenting identification that doesn’t accurately reflect their gender is pervasive in our country. Many transgender respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported being harassed (41 percent), being asked to leave (15 percent), and being assaulted or attacked (3 percent) after presenting identification documents that didn’t accurately reflect their gender.

If HF 516 becomes law, it will force transgender people to put themselves into uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations in order to exercise their right to vote. Please contact your representative today and ask them to oppose HF 516 and protect the voting rights of transgender Iowans and the many other voters this bill would disenfranchise.

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