Pennsylvania legislators are expected to vote on a new voter ID bill before the end of the month. The bill would require all voters to present photo identification to prove their identity before they vote. It replaces a current law which requires only first-time voters to prove their identity.
Although on the surface the Pennsylvania voter ID bill sounds reasonable, the law as written is unconstitutional, as it stops transgender and transsexual voters from having equal access to the voting booth. Suppose a trans woman’s photo ID has a male name and photo on it or a trans man’s ID is that of a woman. Poll workers might question the person’s identity, drawing public attention to the voter’s identity as a trans individual. For this reason, many trans voters may choose to stay home out of fear of violence. Worse yet, statistics show that trans women of color are more likely to suffer violence than any other group, so the trans voters who do come out might be overwhelmingly white.
The policy is discriminatory regardless of whether trans voters choose to risk going to the polls. All Americans should not only have access to the voting booth, but should have equal access to those polls. If a disproportionate number of trans voters have their photo ID questioned in comparison to the general population, then those voters do not have equal access to the polls. Even if they eventually get to vote, forcing one group of people to suffer long delays before being allowed to do so while the rest of the population votes more easily constitutes discrimination. It’s especially egregious if an issue important to trans people happens to be on the ballot in a particular year, as the people who the measure effects would have a harder time voting on it than people who don’t live with its consequences.
If the legislature is truly concerned about Pennsylvania voter fraud, it can find ways to protect against fraud without disenfranchising a segment of the voting population. This bill is more than unnecessary; it sets a dangerous precedent both for trans civil rights and civil rights in general, as other minority groups may also be unfairly impacted by this legislation.