“It just throws people for a loop,” said Yan, 28. “I have trouble at the polling booth with people not believing that it’s me.” A study from the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the University of Los Angeles, estimates that about 25,000 transgender Americans could be disenfranchised in the upcoming election because of a patchwork of voter ID laws. And it’s not just voter ID requirements that are the problem. Poll workers have discretion in giving voters a regular ballot or a provisional ballot, and bias could still affect who gets to vote. Provisional ballots can also be counted differently from regular ones.
Yan said he had been “humiliated” when a poll worker “made a big scene” and asked him if he was “sure” he’d had a gender change. “She was yelling it out loud — loud enough for the rest of the polling booth to hear,” Yan said. New York does not require voter ID, but advocates say the process is hard enough when a person is transgender. “There is discrimination against trans people,” said Mara Kiesling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which is on a mission to get transgender Americans to the polls.