Report

The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters in the 2022 General Election

September 2022

Transgender citizens with identification documents that do not match their gender may encounter obstacles to voting. This report estimates the impact of voter registration requirements and voter ID laws on transgender people who are eligible to vote at the polls in the November 2022 general election.

Highlights
Transgender people of color, young adults, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities are more likely to not have accurate IDs for voting.
Eight states have strict voter ID laws that require voters to provide a government-issued photo ID to vote on a regular ballot at the polls.
Each election year since 2012, the Williams Institute has released reports on the potential impact of voter ID laws on transgender voters.
Data Points
878,300
transgender adults are eligible to vote in the 2022 general election
203,700
voting-eligible transgender people do not have IDs that reflect their correct name and/or gender
64,800
transgender adults reside in states with the strictest voter ID laws
Report

Executive Summary

Transgender people face unique obstacles to obtaining identity documents (IDs) that reflect their gender identity. Identity documents that do not accurately reflect one’s gender, such as a person’s name or gender marker, create obstacles to participating in many facets of public life, including voting. Such obstacles can impact voting in the 35 states that have voter ID laws. In these states, voters encounter additional verification requirements at the polls on top of federal standards for voter registration and eligibility determination. The strictest of these voter ID laws require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polling place, and provide no alternative for voters who do not have a photo ID, or as is often the case for transgender voters, have an inaccurate photo ID. 

The Williams Institute analyzed voter ID laws across the United States in the lead-up to the November 2022 general election and found that as many as 203,700 transgender Americans who are eligible to vote may find it difficult to do so because of voter ID laws, including 64,800 who could face disenfranchisement in states with strict photo ID requirements. The analysis also revealed that: 

  • An estimated 878,300 transgender adults in the U.S. will be eligible to vote in the November 2022 general election. 
  • Forty-two states conduct their elections primarily in person at polling places, as opposed to fully by mail.
    • Over 697,800 voting-eligible transgender Americans live in these states.
    • An estimated 43% of these individuals (296,700) lack identity documents that correctly reflect their name or gender.
    • These individuals may face barriers to voting in person because of a mismatch with their information as listed on voter registration rolls or because of voter ID laws.
  • About 414,000 voting-eligible transgender Americans live in the 31 states that both (1) primarily conduct their elections in person at the polls, and (2) have a voter ID law. Nearly half of these, or 203,700 individuals, do not have an ID that correctly reflects their name and/or gender.
    • Of voting-eligible transgender people who live in states with voter ID requirements, 64,800 live in the states with the strictest voter ID laws (photo ID required with few or no alternatives available).
    • These eligible voters could face substantial barriers and potential disenfranchisement in the November 2022 general election. 
  • Transgender people who are Black, indigenous, or people of color, young adults, students, people with low incomes, people experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities are overrepresented among the over 20,700 voting-eligible transgender people who may face barriers to voting due to voter ID laws in the 2022 midterm election cycle. 
The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters in the 2022 General Election

James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality, available at https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Full-Report-Dec17.pdf (last accessed February 18, 2020).

James, et al., The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

U.S. Election Assistance Commission. (2020). National Mail Voter Registration Form. Washington, DC: U.S. Election Assistance Commission, available at https://www.eac.gov/sites/default/files/eac_assets/1/6/ Federal_Voter_ Registration_ENG.pdf (last accessed February 19, 2020).

U.S. Election Assistance Commission, National Mail Voter Registration Form. Some states may accept a copy of different forms of ID than driver’s license or social security number with the voter registration form if the voter does not have a driver’s license number or social security number.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization, provides current information on the status of voter identification laws and legislation in all U.S. states, available at http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx (last accessed February 18, 2020). The NCSL website also includes a description of identification requirements and statutory citations for legislation enacted in each state.

This analysis is limited to voting-eligible people voting in person at the polls. This analysis does not account for those people who may vote with an absentee ballot or another type of mail-in ballot. Requirements for absentee voting vary by state and often require the voter to attest to having an acceptable reason for needing to vote absentee. Voting in the United States is a two-step process in all but one state (North Dakota): one must first register to vote and then cast a ballot. For the purposes of this study, it is assumed that transgender voters will have registered to vote under the name and address that is currently reflected in their citizenship documents or other identification documents that are required for purposes of voter registration and voting.

Underhill, W. (2020). Voter Identification Requirements | Voter ID Laws. Washington, DC: National Conference of State Legislatures, available at https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx (last accessed February 19, 2020). Alabama and Missouri were reclassified by the authors. See note 15.