Voting While Trans: What You Need to Know to Cast Your Ballot

A truly representative democracy requires all American citizens to express their voices through their ballots. While it can be exciting to cast a vote, anyone intent on making their preferences heard in the electoral process must fulfill a few steps and make a plan – to successfully vote in the 2022 primary and general elections. For some transgender persons, it can feel even a bit more complicated than that.

  • What documents do I need?
  • Are my records up to date?
  • Does the name on my registration record match up with what’s on my ID?
  • What about the listed gender on my paperwork?

On top of all that, some trans voters may feel wary facing poll workers who ask lots of questions or examine an ID card for too long. The experience may seem especially daunting if this is the first time voting since making the transition from one gender to another. Below, we provide a step-by-step guide to make sure you’re adequately prepared.

Step One - Make sure you are registered to vote!

In all states but one (North Dakota), you must first register before you can vote.  Many states require one to both live in the state and register to vote 30 days or fewer ahead of an election.  Check your state’s voter registration requirements, and register to vote or update your registration today!

If you choose to vote in person, you may be eligible to register and vote on the same day either on Election Day or during an early voting period. 

    • States with Same Day Registration on Election Day: DC, ID, ME, MN, NH, WI, and WY. Note that CT allow same day registration for the midterm general election but not in the primary on August 9, 2022.

    • States with Same Day Registration during an early voting period through Election Day: CA, CO, HI, IA, MD, MI, NV, NM, UT, and VT

    • States with Same Day Registration during early voting only: MT and NC

You must provide proof of residency and/or photo ID when registering on the same day as voting.  In some states, a utility bill, government paycheck, or bank statement suffices as proof. Come prepared with the necessary documents! Contact your local election official to get registered today.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE

What should you do if you’ve changed your name?: If you previously registered under a different name – say, Jane – and have since updated any legal paperwork (birth certificate, photo ID, etc.) to a new name – say, Jay – then you must update your registration with your new name, Jay.  Some states may also include a section on their registration form for “registration history;” please include your previous name(s) in this section. 

Updating a name is especially important in states that require presentation of some form of ID.  The name on your ID must match the name on your registration. Update your voter registration as soon as possible, but definitely by your state’s deadline!  

 

Step Two – Check to see if you need ID to vote!

Thirty-five states require some form of voter ID when you arrive and check-in at the polling place or shortly thereafter. But the rules vary: some require a photo ID, others just a utility bill or some other non-photo form. You can check your state’s ID requirements in US Vote’s state voting information directory.

If you don’t have the required identification, you may be offered a provisional ballot. Some states’ poll workers will require you to produce ID at the local elections office before your provisional ballot will be counted. Others permit you to sign an affidavit attesting to the lack of ID and then vote using a regular ballot. Here’s a list of the four different ID laws and the states to which they apply:

    • Strict photo ID 

These states require a voter to produce photo ID at the polls or shortly thereafter at an elections office for the vote to count: AR, GA, IN, KS, MS, TN, and WI

    • Non-strict photo ID 

These states conduct matches between signatures at registration and sign-in.  Or they permit a voter to sign an attestation as to lack of ID or get identified by elections officials if they can’t produce ID at the polls: AL, FL, ID, LA, MI, MT, RI, SC, SD, and TX

    • Strict non-photo ID 

These states require the voter to produce some documentary identification for the ballot to be counted: AZ, ND, OH, and WY

    • Non-strict, non-photo ID

These states permit the voter to cast a ballot without the requested documentation, and will verify eligibility by other means: AK, CO, CT, DE, HI, IA, KY, MO, NH, OK, UT, VA, WA, and WV

Check your state’s voter ID requirements before the election! If you need help obtaining ID, contact Vote Riders

 

IMPORTANT NOTE

Plan Ahead if Your ID and Name Don’t Match: If you live in a state that requires presentation of some form of ID, the name on your voter registration and ID – whether photo ID or other documentation, depending on state’s requirement – must match with each other. Thirty percent of transgender voters have reported “verbal harassment as a result of an ID with a name or gender marker that did not match their gender presentation.” While you can’t control another’s bias or prejudice, you can prepare yourself ahead of time. VoteRiders offers a very helpful tool for trans persons to update several forms of ID with name and/or gender marker changes. Contact them if you still need help updating your ID.

While the name on your registration and ID must match, your updated gender need not be reflected in your ID. If a poll worker engages in biased behavior or language, please look for an Election Protection volunteer at your polling place or call 866-OUR-VOTE for help. And, again, please contact VoteRiders if you want assistance in updating a gender marker on your ID.

 

Step Three – Find your polling place!

Whether you vote during an early voting period or on Election Day, identify your location ahead of time. Consider how long it takes to get there. And be prepared for a line. Your local election official can provide you with polling place location.

Some states – Georgia, for one – now prohibit volunteers from passing out food or water to voters waiting in line. So bring a snack! And maybe a book. A fold-out chair even! Think ahead about what can make your voting experience comfortable and, yes, memorable. 

This is especially important for voters with disabilities. Every polling place location must accommodate voters with disabilities through some means of assistance and accessible voting.

And if you feel more comfortable going with a friend, do that. Some feel safer in numbers, and recruiting pals is a great way to spread the message to vote. Do what works for you. And make sure you get your “I voted!” sticker once you cast your ballot.

 

Step Four – Check your comfort level!  Voting by mail may be an option for you.

You may decide to vote by mail, instead of going to a polling place, either because it would make you feel safer or just because it’s more convenient. Many states offer vote by mail or no-excuse absentee voting; others require an excuse to vote by an absentee ballot. Check your state’s voting methods and options, and request your ballot as soon as possible

 

Step Five – Get help if you need it!

If, for whatever reason, a poll worker tells you your name can’t be found on the registration rolls, or that you haven’t provided sufficient ID, then (1) first check that you’re at the proper polling place and (2), if you are, then request a provisional ballot. If you didn’t bring ID with you, or the one your brought isn’t accepted, you may have to bring in another to an elections office by a certain date. Get as much information as possible.

If you feel as though you’re being harassed, or denied the right to vote due to bias, then look for an Election Protection monitor or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

 

Remember, Every Citizen is a Voter, and you have the right to vote!