The 2020 General Election is going to be one for the books. To say there is a lot on the line is an understatement of epic proportions. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and a national racial justice moment of reckoning. Federal, state, and local races on the ballot this year will have a profound impact on our daily lives.
The unfortunate reality is that every election season we have to work against laws that disenfranchise marginalized communities, including transgender (trans) and gender non-conforming (GNC) voters. Voter identification (ID) laws have been a catalyst for voter suppression across the country. Specifically, photo ID laws – laws that require voters to present certain forms of ID with a photo that matches their name – place trans and GNC voters vulnerable to disenfranchisement. Then there are the barriers that trans and GNC voters can face at the polls due to bias or misinterpretations related to voting laws.
According to a 2020 study by the Williams Institute, 81,000 voting-eligible trans people live in states with the strictest voter ID laws and could potentially be disenfranchised during the 2020 election. The same report found that approximately 42% (378,450) of voting-eligible trans people in 45 states have no ID documents that reflect their correct name and/or gender identity. Obtaining such documentation has been made even more difficult by COVID-19, as the pandemic has suspended or delayed many court and government offices.
We know that democracy works best when all voices are included, and that’s why it’s crucial that all eligible voters exercise their constitutional right to vote, regardless of their gender identity or expression. Here are three steps that trans and GNC voters can take this election.
Step 1: Know Your Voting Rights
Bottom line…If you identify as trans or GNC and meet Ohio’s voter eligibility and residency requirements, you have a right to vote! Gender identity or expression has no impact on this constitutional right. So, don’t let misinformation about voter ID requirements discourage you from casting your ballot.
Here’s what you should know…
- Voter Registration ID Requirements – Ohio does not ask voters to declare their gender or select a gender prefix on our voter registration forms. In order to register to vote or update your voter registration, you need to provide the following:
- Ohio driver's license or Ohio identification card number;
- Date of Birth;
- Address; and
- Last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Voter ID Requirements – Voter ID laws vary by state. Fortunately, unlike other states, a photo IDis not required to vote in Ohio. There are a number of documents that you can provide to confirm your identity if you are voting in-person. Instead of a photo ID, you may want to consider providing another acceptable form of voter identification. For example, you can bring a current (past 12 months) utility bill, bank statement, government issued check, or paycheck that reflects the same name and current address that is found on your voter registration.
Step 2: Check Your Voter Registration
In order to vote, you must be registered. The deadline to register for the upcoming election is October 5th. But don’t wait until then. You want to make sure that you are registered as soon as possible.
You can check your voter registration here.
You can register to vote or update your voter registration online through Ohio’s Online Voter Registration System. You can also download the registration form and mail it in or go in-person to your county Board of Elections (BOE) office, an Ohio BMV office, a public high school, or a library.
If you are registered, make sure that your information is accurate and up to date. Your voter registration information should match your current ID documents.
Question: What if I legally changed my name since registering to vote and it’s too late to update my voter registration?
Answer: You still have a right to vote! You can bring a completed Notice of Change of Name form to your polling place, along with proof of your legal name change (e.g., a court order or marriage certificate) and still be allowed to cast a ballot on that same day.
Step 3: Vote!
This election will be unlike every other for many reasons. COVID-19 has brought a new set of realities that we are still trying to navigate, and the process of voting is no exception. To help eliminate some of the confusion, we shared the three ways that Ohioans can cast their ballot in the General Election.
Here’s a recap of those three options:
- Option 1: Vote by Mail (Request your absentee ballot now!)
*Mail-in voting has been proven to be a preferable voting method for trans voters because it eliminates some of the barriers that exist for in-person voting. If you are still determining your voting plan, you may want to opt for voting by mail this election.
- Option 2: Early In-Person Voting (Starting October 6th)
- Option 3: Voting In-Person on (Election Day (November 3rd)
A Few Tips for In-Person Voting
We shared some tips for a successful Election Day during the 2016 General Election that still hold true. Don’t forget about these last few pieces of advice if you are planning to cast your ballot in-person.
- The name and address you state verbally to poll workers should match the name and address found on your voter registration and the name printed on your presented form of voter ID. If these names do not match (for anyreason), you still have the right to vote! You may be asked to cast a “provisional ballot.” The content of a provisional ballot is no different from a regular ballot, but it is cast "provisionally" until election officials can verify your voter eligibility and polling location (e.g., confirm that you’re registered to vote and voting at the correct precinct). There are many different scenarios in which a voter may be asked to cast a provisional ballot. If you cast a provisional ballot, ask your BOE about follow-up instructions to see if you need to provide additional information or documentation to ensure your vote is counted. Generally, if you showed proof of your identity at the time you cast your ballot, you will not need to give more information to your local BOE. If you did not show identification, you will need to provide more information, in-person, within seven (7) days after the election. You can also call the National Election Protection Hotline at 866-OURVOTE (866-687-8683), which can help you make sure your ballot is counted.
- Don't forget! If you have legally changed your name since registering to vote (or didn’t update your registration), you can still vote! Be sure to bring a copy of your completed Notice of Change of Name formwith you to the polls for documentation.
- If a poll worker questions or challenges your gender expression, know that as long as the name and address found on your voter registration matches those found on your form of ID, you are legally entitled to vote. You may want to have a copy of our Tip Sheet for Poll Workersor Voting While Trans Checklist handy to help you navigate any discussions.
And if you run into any issues, contact…
- Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OURVOTE (866-687-8683)
- Ohio Secretary of State: 1-877-767-6446
- If you feel your right to vote has been denied, fill out our Voter Complaint Form.
The National Center for Trans Equality Action Fund (NCTE) is considering the 2020 election "by far the most important election in our life time" for the LGBTQ community. Before casting your vote, make sure you are informed of what’s on the ballot. Check our Equality Ohio’s 2020 Elected Officials Scorecard to see how current members of the Ohio General Assembly and the Presidential Candidates rate on LGBTQ issues.
And then vote like your rights depend on it, because they do.
Here are some other helpful voting resources: