- Nic F. Anderson
California Secretary of State Aims To Protect Transgender Californians' Voting Rights
California’s Secretary of State partnered with Equality California Institute to protect the voting rights for transgender Californians in 2020.
As California’s March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election is approaching, the state’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced in October that he’s partnering with Equality California Institute to “protect transgender and gender-nonconforming voters’ access to the ballot box and boost LGBTQ+ civic engagement in 2020.”
Equality California Institute is the educational arm of Equality California, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organizations.
The partnership between the secretary of state and the organization will distribute training materials to the state’s county registrars to promote best practices for when poll workers engage with voters whose gender identity, expression or pronouns do not appear to match their name on the voter rolls.
Brochures, posters and digital media will be developed to inform transgender and gender-nonconforming voters of their rights.
There will be targeted nonpartisan ‘Get Out the Vote’ communications and 2020 census outreach efforts to increase civic participation within the LGBTQ community.
“Every eligible voter has a right to cast a ballot free from any unnecessary burdens or intimidation,” Padilla said. “Elections officials have a duty to facilitate the participation of all eligible voters. By partnering with Equality California we can benefit from their expertise and experience to better train poll workers and ensure a welcoming voting environment for LGBTQ citizens. California is proud to be proactive in protecting the voting rights of LGBTQ voters and fostering an inclusive democracy.”
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates that approximately 0.76% of Californians, which translates to 218,400 people, identify as transgender. “Based on the overall numbers of eligible and registered California voters as of February 2019, that means there are likely at least 190,000 eligible voters and 150,000 registered voters statewide who identify as transgender,” Padilla’s press release stated.
“No one should be denied the right to vote because of their gender identity or expression — and there’s certainly too much at stake next year to let that happen in California,” said Equality California Institute Executive Director Rick Zbur. “While other states impose strict, unnecessary voter ID laws targeting people of color and the LGBTQ community, California is making sure every single eligible voter has a chance to cast a ballot. We’re grateful to Secretary Padilla for his leadership and partnership in the fight to protect access to the ballot box and advance LGBTQ civil rights.”
California voters are generally not required to provide identification to a poll worker before casting a ballot; however, many transgender and gender-nonconforming voters might be registered and appear on the voter roll under a name that does not “match” their gender identity, expression, name or pronouns that they use.
An example situation of when a Californian would be asked for identification is if they registered to vote by mail and did not provide a driver's license number, state identification number or the last four digits of their social security number on their registration form. In these cases, voters' names and gender markers on their form of identification may not “match” their gender identity, expression, name or pronouns that they use.
Poll workers will be given the tools and training that they will need to “respectfully engage with transgender and gender-nonconforming voters, tens of thousands of California voters could be at risk of being disenfranchised,” according to Padilla’s press release.