Let’s be honest: Arizona has a mixed history and demonstrates a low tolerance and regard for members of the LGBTQ community and zealot lawmakers often take every chance they can to legislate against us if they can-and they do. Lobbyists' are hard at work fighting against our rights and are well funded. Opponents of anti discrimination language are always looking for vaguely written laws and amendments to continue to withhold benefits from the LGBTQ community.
It is only when we have rallied our resources and are unified can we succeed. But our work is never done because as we know our lives can be shattered with the “stroke of pen” with new legislation that is designed to marginalize us and permit discrimination on the job. As one previously unscalable wall crumbles one goes up just as quickly in it's stead in the form of a bill, often disguised as religious freedom. It can always happen with our government and equally as bad, it can and does happen in our workplace.
Twenty nine states are permitted to fire you simply for being LGBTQ. We have made great strides towards inclusive local legislation but our work is far from done. The only protection we can currently count on is contract language guaranteeing equality in the workplace. To that end we are tasked with political education and activism to advocate state and federal legislation advancing LGBT anti-discrimination policies.
Recently states across the country have passed more laws making voting increasingly difficult. States have employed various tactics to restrict access to the ballot, and among those passed are voter identification laws. Preventing voter fraud is the claimed rationale for these laws. However, voter ID laws across the country impose insurmountable burdens on many voters to simply fix a problem that doesn’t exist. There is much more evidence that qualified voters are disfranchised by these measures than there is evidence of “in person” impersonation fraud – the only type of fraud a voter ID might address. In some states, voters can only cast a ballot if they display a valid photo identification, from a very short list of acceptable IDs (that varies from state to state), at their polling place. While the requirement at first glance seems simple, a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice demonstrated the devastating impact these laws will have on minority, voters with disabilities, elderly, young and low-income voters. Because recent studies report that LGBTQ men and woman have a largely disproportionately high rate of poverty this IS a LGBTQ issue. As many as five million eligible voters face disfranchisement this election cycle. State houses are enacting needlessly restrictive laws that will prevent or discourage millions of Americans from exercising their most basic civil right.
In addition, transgender voters face unique challenges in complying with recent voter ID laws. According to a recent study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, over 25,000 otherwise eligible transgender voters could be turned away at their polling places in the next election. The most pressing problem is the potential discrepancy between a voter’s gender identity and his or her designated sex on state-issued identification. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found over 40 percent of transgender men and women do not have an ID that accurately reflects their gender. Concern about discrepancies between identification documents and gender identity could potentially lead to confusion and a higher level of needless and potentially embarrassing scrutiny from poll workers.
Transgender men and women often face difficult hurdles when attempting to change their state-issued documentation to reflect their lived gender.
In addition to the bureaucratic and legal hurdles, transgender individuals face discrimination and harassment at staggering levels on a regular basis. The NTDS reported 22 percent of transgender respondents had been denied equal treatment or had experienced harassment by government officials when presenting in-congruent ID. Anxiety about potential discrimination at the polls further inhibits transgender voter turnout.
Transgender voters are just one group facing disfranchisement this election. Thousands of transgender voters could be turned away at the polls; untold more will stay home rather than risk discrimination or harassment from polling officials.
Voting is a key part of having our voices heard in the issues that affect us all, regardless of who you are. One’s identity should never keep them from being able to vote. It’s important to know that having ID that doesn’t match your gender identity or presentation does not affect your right to cast a ballot, in any state. But with increasingly strict voter ID laws, transgender people may face barriers—both because they can’t get any ID that’s accepted, or because they might run into bias or misunderstandings of the law when it comes to their gender.
Floridians endured election chaos and marathon voting lines (2012), largely thanks to reduced early voting hours, voter purges, and voter registration restrictions pushed by Republican legislators. In an exclusive report by the Palm Beach Post, several prominent Florida Republicans are now admitting that these election law changes were geared toward suppressing minority and Democratic votes. Former governor Charlie Crist (R-FL) and former GOP chairman Jim Greer (R-FL), as well as several current GOP members, told the Post that Republican consultants pushed the new measures as a way to suppress Democratic voters. Crist expanded early voting hours in 2008 despite party pressure, but Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) targeted early voting almost immediately when he took office in 2011. Scott’s administration claimed the new laws were meant to curb in-person voter fraud, despite the fact that an individual in Florida is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.
Current party members and consultants confirmed the motive was not to stop voter fraud but to make it harder for Democrats and minorities to vote.
Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal. “In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn’t have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn’t the impact that they had this election cycle,” Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.
Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008.
[…]A GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution said black voters were a concern. “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves,” he said.
Though the state ultimately went to President Obama, the Republican effort to suppress votes was largely successful. A post-election report found that new voting restrictions led to a huge increase in provisional ballots, which are cast when there is some question of the voter’s eligibility.
While crying voter fraud, the Florida GOP had to confront its own scandal when a voter registration firm they hired turned in hundreds of fraudulent registration forms in several Florida counties. The GOP hastily cut ties with the group when the state opened a criminal investigation into their operations. (Think Progress Nov 26 2012)
Wisconsin’s voter ID law does not accept U.S. Veterans Administration ID cards, a slap in the faces of the brave men and women who have served our country.
In North Carolina, a preliminary injunction restoring same-day registration — which 90,000 people used in the 2012 election — remains in place thanks to litigation in 2014. But challenging other aspects of North Carolina’s voter suppression bill, including the elimination of early voting days on which almost 900,000 North Carolinians cast their ballots in the last presidential election, is critical. To put things in perspective, that figure is more than five times the margin of victory in that election. There is a decision in Federal Court pending.
In Texas, various groups are challenging the state’s voter ID law. The law is purportedly necessary to prevent voter fraud. Suspiciously, though, Texas does not accept University of Texas student ID cards (which are issued by the state itself), but it does accept concealed weapons permits. Over 600,000 Texas voters are estimated not to have one of the required forms of ID. To gain perspective on the tilted scales, think about who votes with school ID’s and who votes with gun permits.
UPDATE- In a twist of irony, the day before the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a very conservative federal appeals courts struck down the Texas voter suppression law. In an opinion written by a George W. Bush appointee, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously voted that the Texas ID law violated the Voting Rights Act and must be weakened.
Alabama, after the Shelby County decision, a strict voter ID law was implemented requiring a driver’s license or similar ID to vote. Then, in 2015, Alabama shut down drivers license offices in 31 counties – including every county in which African Americans make up 75% of registered voters.
In Ohio, Elimination of same-day registration. Eliminated the “Golden Week,” during which approximately 90,000 voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
In North Dakota, the only state to pass a voter ID law in 2015, this law is one of the strictest in the, prohibiting student IDs and even US passports and military IDs as valid ID at the polls.
Virginia implemented a strict voter ID law after the Shelby County decision. Over 200,000 voters in Virginia lack ID.
Mississippi implemented a strict voter ID law after the Shelby County decision.
What all this activity shows is that the wave of voter suppression efforts that swept across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision eliminating a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder, has continued. In fact, in 2015, voter ID laws were proposed in half a dozen states: Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, and West Virginia. But five of those bills failed; only North Dakota’s became law.
(Patrick DePoy- ACLU Washington Legislative Office June 8, 2012, Center for Transgender Equality, Dale Ho Director-Voting Rights Project-ACLU January 14, 2016, Liberals Unite Aug 5, 2015)