Voter Photo ID was not an encumbrance for Transgender and Gender Variant voters in Knox County Tennessee during the four days of Early Voting for this year’s election, which ended Thursday at 8pm ET.
Of the hundreds of citizens hired by Knox County Election Commission to work Early Voting and Election Day, at least three are post-transition Transsexuals. Two will or did work polling locations in City of Knoxville and the other was or will be at a Knox County location.
In the worldwide Transgender community there has been much derision regarding the new Voter Photo ID requirement that went into effect before the Primaries. Many claimed it put an undue burden on Transgender voters by causing issues due to physical presentation not matching gender markers. There is no way to know how many Transgender and Gender Variant community members voted in early election, however at least in Knox County there have yet to be any reports of government-issued identification being rejected at the polling place.
University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UTK) students and staff represent the highest centralized concentration of Transgender and Gender Variant voters in Knox County. With that in mind secret observers monitored the Early Voting site at UTK for the entire four days, for an accumulated 44 hours as roughly 2600 persons entered the polling location. While several individuals were unable to vote due to not being registered or being registered in another county, not a single voter was turned away due to gender mismatching between government issued identification and their physical appearance.
UTK teaching assistant R.B. changed his name last month by court order but his “female” gender marker has not yet been changed and he physically presents as male. When he arrived to vote Thursday morning his driver license was accepted, Election staff were courteous and did not indicate they noticed any gender incongruity, his ballot was cast without any concerns. After exiting the polling place he stopped to chat with this Examiner reporter.
“That was amazingly easy. I had no problems.” When told both poll workers that verified his ID were Republicans he smiled. “They were nice and no one treated me different or looked at me oddly. I was nervous at first then realized there was no reason to be.”
On Wednesday several Gender Variant students had voted en masse. Some had female gender markers on their IDs yet present as Gender Queer or Gender Fluid, others had male gender markers on their IDs and present as Gender Queer. All were treated respectfully and voted without any questioning of their government-issued IDs or physical presentation. Five were assisted with address changes before voting and another was allowed to cast a “provisional ballot” since they had a Knox County Voter Registration Card but could not be found in the computer files. All cast their ballots without any focus on physical presentation not matching gender marker on their Tennessee Driver Licenses.
Through out the four days other Transgender voters passed through the doors, literally and figuratively, without issue or concerns.
To further assist voters who do not currently possess valid government-issued photo identification as required to vote, Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security will have 8 offices across the state open on Saturday, November 3rd, from 8:00am to 4:00pm only for issuing Voter IDs or converting non-photo IDs to meet the requirement. Among those offices is the Knoxville office at 7320 Region Lane, Knoxville, TN 37914 (Strawberry Plains Exit off I-40).
“I encourage citizens who need photo identification for voting purposes to take advantage of these special hours of service. No other transactions will be handled on Saturday. We will be focusing all resources on providing photo IDs to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get a photo ID before Election Day,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
Further information can be found at the Tennessee Government website, URL https://news.tn.gov/node/9842
While media sources continue to cry out that Voter Photo ID laws target transgender citizens for discrimination and disenfranchise Trans or Gender Variant voters, in Tennessee it appears to not be happening in Knoxville or Knox County.