world : Transgender voters say they face photo ID barrier

world : Transgender voters say they face photo ID barrier
world : Transgender voters say they face photo ID barrier

Saturday 15 June 2024 02:48 AM

Nafeza 2 world - The UK government said people with concerns about using their photo ID can access free Voter Authority Certificates, external, which do not identify their gender.

It added that it worked with charities and civil society organisations, "including those representing trans and non-binary people" to develop the voter ID plans.

Voter Authority Certificates were introduced as an alternative to photo IDs required under the Elections Act 2022.

Gwion Williams, 20, said that he obtained a voting certificate because his previous ID states that he is female.

Mr Williams, from Bridgend, said: "While Voter Authority Certificates are, in theory, easily and freely available; the process is not well signposted or promoted to people."

He said that getting his hands on a certificate "came with the challenges of having to have all the documents in place, having to be able to prove I am, who I say I am again to a panel of strangers to decide whether I could have ID".

He added: "They are not maintainable forms of ID - it's a printed piece of paper that isn't going to last.

"In some ways even presenting a Voter Authority Certificate is othering - it's not a small ID card and it highlights that the only ID you could access was a free one."

Mr Williams said he could not access a traditional form of ID "because the process is long, it's expensive, and all of my previous ID says I'm female".

"If I turn up at a polling station, and my ID claims I'm female, and I am not presenting as female, I risk getting turned away and risk abuse," he said.

A new passport costs £88.50, a driving licence costs £34.

Mr Williams said he thinks participating in the election is vital "particularly for trans people and gender non-conforming people to protect our own lives".

"For many people, a vote is just seeing what the future will hold, but for trans people, this is a case of what rights we will still have," he said.

Across Instagram, Facebook, and X, formerly known as Twitter, the Electoral Commission has posted about free voter IDs 54 times since 1 March 2023.

Across the same three platforms, the UK government has published three posts on X since 24 April 2023 about the IDs.

The Elections Act 2022 means you will not be allowed to cast your vote if:

  • You cannot provide accepted photo ID - but you can vote if you have a Voter Authority Certificate

  • The polling station officer has "reasonable doubt" you are not the person on the ID

  • If your name, appearance or gender expression appear different to the photo ID

When the photo ID rules were introduced, the UK government said it would help prevent voter fraud.

There were 1,462 cases of alleged electoral fraud reported to police between 2019 and 2023, according to the Electoral Commission, external.

Of these, 11 led to convictions, and the police issued four cautions. Most resulted in the police taking no further action.

Danielle St James, born in Barry and now living in Margate, is the chief executive of trans charity Not A Phase.

She said mandatory photo ID's "should never ever have happened" and that she thinks there has not been "nearly enough" done to promote the free option.

Ms James said: "It’s conservative gerrymandering. The thing is the people who are less likely to have voter ID are marginalised groups - people of colour, minority groups."

She questioned why there is not a bigger push on social media or flyers through doors for Voter Authority Certificates.

"We need to be reaching people to tell them how to get over this barrier that has been put in front of them, that is going to prevent them from having a future of equality," she said.

The Conservative party said Cabinet Office research in 2021 found "98% of the electorate" had "some form of suitable photograph identification", and there is a free option for those who do not.

A spokesperson said: "Voter identification was first introduced in 2003 in Northern Ireland by the last Labour government. This government has now rolled it out across Great Britain."

Orion, an 18-year-old from mid-Devon, said they thought their only option to be able to vote was to buy a new passport - which they have now done.

They had "panicked" when they heard about the photo ID rule because their old ID no longer looked like them and they were worried about being refused or outed as trans.

They said the photo ID law made them feel "angry" because it "feels unnecessary and has such huge impact on like the most marginalised people in our society".

They had not heard about Voter Authority Certificates and said "a huge barrier to me voting is that I genuinely don't know about all of the options because we don't get taught about it in school".

The Electoral Commission said it is working "to raise awareness of the ID requirement and the availability of free voter ID through integrated advertising, partnership work, press activity, digital engagement and information on our website".

"At the polling station, voters can ask to have their ID checked in private if they wish and polling station staff will receive training on how to check ID sensitively."

The Labour party's manifesto said it will improve voter registration and address inconsistencies in voter ID rules.

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