Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

OutServe Magazine | November 2, 2012

Scroll to top


The Most Unwanted Voter

The Most Unwanted Voter
Brynn Tannehill

By Brynn Tannehill

Last week was my first opportunity to vote with my new name and new identity. The ballot issue was an emergency levy for the schools to raise the city income tax from 2.25 percent to 3.25 percent. Predictably, it failed. The more memorable part was showing up and discovering that I was still listed under my old name in the voter rolls. My new first name is only one letter different from my old first name. My last name and address are the same. I played off on the discrepancy as a typographical error. After a brief huddle the election officials told me, “It’s your lucky day. You don’t have to fill out a provisional ballot, and we’ll make a note on the sheet to fix the name.”

I am not certain if I was outed as a result of this encounter, but at least I was allowed to vote with a regular ballot. This ensured it was at least counted. My Ohio driver’s license gave my correct name, address, and gender. My government issued CAC card was the cherry on top. Many trans people aren’t in nearly as good a position to establish their identity, though.

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that 25,000 transgender people could lose the right to vote due to voter ID laws. Many conservative states make obtaining a driver’s license with a trans person’s correct gender nearly impossible, or prohibitively expensive. As a result, up to 41 percent of trans people lack a correct driver’s license. While the map in the link above shows that this disenfranchisement is unlikely to affect the general election, or even statewide elections, it denies people the democratic voice we have fought for over the course of 226 years.

Republicans don’t seem interested in trans people voting. When margins in elections get too narrow, though, democrats seem to prefer for military absentee ballots not be counted either. In closely contested Presidential races, the pattern has been for the democratic candidate to contest military absentee ballots (Bush v Gore), and for the republican to contest provisional ballots (Bush v Kerry). Voters with name discrepancies, like the transgender community, are typically forced to use provisional ballots. The math on why these two patterns happen is pretty simple; military people generally vote conservatively, and LGBT typically people vote for the more liberal candidate.

There is an upside, I suppose. If the ban on trans people in the military ever ends, at least it will finally give both parties something they can agree on. They will finally have a demographic neither group wants voting.

Brynn Tannehill
  • On 15, Aug 2012
  • Brynn Tannehill was a SH-60B and P-3C pilot with 10 years of active duty service. A Naval Academy graduate, she left the reserves in 2010 as a lieutenant commander and is currently a contractor at the 711th Human Performance Wing in Dayton, Ohio. Brynn provides OutServe Magazine an experienced transgender voice. See more from this contributor.