Last year the Texas legislature passed SB 14, a bill that requires anyone voting to present one of five forms of photo identification:
- Driver's license or state ID,
- Military ID,
- Citizenship certificate that includes photograph,
- Passport, or
- Concealed handgun license.
According to the Williams Institute report 27% of transgender Texans do not have updated ID. Under this new law these voters may be unable to vote.
The new law has not yet gone into effect. So any registered voter who wishes to vote in the upcoming primary election need only show their voter registration card in order to vote (early voting starts today!). Implementation of the law has been delayed while the Justice Department considers whether it would violate provisions of the Voting Rights Act by making it unduly difficult for minority communities to vote.
Unfortunately the Voting Rights Act does not require the Justice Department to determine if the law would disenfranchise transgender voters.
If upheld the new photo ID law will have the ultimate effect of silencing one of the most vulnerable segments of the LGBT community, and at this stage in the process there is little that can be done to defeat the law other than wait and hope that the Justice Department refuses to approve it, or that a lawsuit brought to defend the voting rights of people of color is successful.
In the meantime we can prepare and educate our community about what will need to be done if this law goes into effect:
- Double check that you are registered to vote (this goes for everyone, trans and cisgender people alike). You can look up your voter registration on-line on your County Clerk's website (just search for "(your county) TX clerk);
- If you have a history of gender transition make certain that you have at least one of the five forms of ID listed above that matches the name and address on your voter registration;
- Work to educate your local election officials about the issue (again, this goes for everyone). Both the Republican and Democratic parties (and to a lesser extent the Libertarian, Green and Reform parties) try to have a chair in every voting precinct. Generally the contact information for these chairs can be found on your county party's website. Contact the chair for your precinct and let them know to be on the lookout for the issue. While you're at it contact your County Clerk and ask that, if the law is upheld, election judges receive training on how to be sensitive towards transgender voters.