Transgender people face uncountable challenges, and we don’t want voting to be one for you. Whether you’re a first time voter or you have done this before, this guide is intended to empower you as a voter. Remember, voting is a fundamental right for all citizens. It is imperative, as a minority community, to raise our voices to make the changes we want to see.
Here are some gender-marker related considerations that you may want to think about when deciding how you will go and vote:
- If you have not been able to change your gender marker on your driver’s license/ID and you don’t want poll workers seeing your ID, then absentee voting might be a good option for you.
- If you are a first time voter, you must have registered in person at your local clerk or Secretary of State in order to vote absentee. This option is also good for trans* students, trans* folks with disabilities and trans* folks who need English assistance.
Different Ways to Vote
- Absentee voting (recommended if you are nervous about outing yourself at the polls):
- Absentee voting applications are in the column on the left side of the michigan.gov/vote page and the application must be to your city/township/county clerk by no later than 2pm on Saturday, Aug 4th for primaries and 2pm on Saturday, November 3rd for general. The completed absentee ballot must be returned no later than 8pm on the day of the elections.
- First time voters: If you have registered by mail or through a third party organization, you will have to verify your identity at your local clerk by showing a photo ID. This can be done either before the elections or if you drop off your absentee ballot in person.
- If you’ve applied for an absentee ballot and show up at the polls, that may be challenged, so do your best to turn it in if you’ve applied for it.
- Voting in person:
- Make sure you are at the correct polling location. Check the michigan.gov/vote webpage or ask your local clerk. An organization called People for The American Way has a polling location hotline as well (800-326-7329).
- Please look at the Trans* Tips for Feeling Good at the Polls section for help on gender identity concerns, disability and language barriers concerns.
- ‘Typical’ ballot: Michigan law requires you to present a photo ID to go through a typical ballot process, so bring this with you if you have it.
- No photo ID with you: Affidavit followed by a ‘typical’ ballot: If your name is on the voter registration list but you do not have a photo ID on you, then you will go through an affidavit process:
- First, you will sign an oath, saying that you do not have an ID on you.
- Next, a precinct board member will ask you a few questions in person to verify some information.
- Finally, you will be given a typical ballot and it WILL be counted as part of the voting totals.
- Pollworkers are uncertain: Affidavit followed by provisional ballot: If your name does not appear on the registration list or if the poll workers have suspicion about whether you are:
- 18 years old,
- a citizen,
- a true resident of the city/township or (4)
- whether you registered before the deadline,
Then you will go through the affidavit process. You will be asked questions specific to the uncertain info and will be issued a provisional ballot instead of a typical ballot.
Your provisional ballot status only matters if it is “challenged,” which may happen if the precinct board member is still unsure about the verification of your information. This will go through a court process, post-election.
Trans* Tips for Feeling Good at the Polls
Modified from the National Transgender Center for Equality’s “Overcoming Voting Obstacles”
Remember – it is your right to vote.
If you registered to vote and you show up to vote, you vote. Period.
What you should have with you just in case:
- If you have legally changed your name and you did not re-register under your new legal bring the following items with you to the polls:
- The copies of the court paperwork you had to go through
- Or some older photo IDs or physicians’ letters if you don’t have that paperwork
- If you don’t have any of these items or don’t want to bring these items but you are on the registration lists, ask to go through the affidavit process. If you’re not on the registration list, ask for a provisional (see Ways to Vote for more info) Please also call the Our Vote hotline (866-687-8683) to report and for further assistance.
- If you have not gotten a legal gender marker change on your photo ID and/or your photo does not ‘match’ the presentation of your gender that day, and you’re nervous about poll workers challenging your identity, you should bring:
- Copies of older photo IDs
- Physicians’ letters
- Any other documents that prove you are who you are
- Follow the same starred procedure above if you are still questioned or if you don’t have these items
- Bring a voting buddy! Be it a fellow trans*friend, a family member or someone else who makes you feel comfortable, bring them with you to the polling location. You are legally allowed to have someone assist you in the polling both if:
- You have a disability
- You are unable to read or write (make sure the other person is a registered voter too!).
- Language barriers exist
The trans* community has always been integral to positive social change, despite receiving little recognition for hard-fought efforts. We need to be involved and visible in the conversation around voting and civic engagement, so that we can hold our politicians accountable to our community. Voting is a way we build our power as a community, a way to start making change so that we finally see our values and our needs highlighted by those representing us.