California Is Training Poll Workers to Curb Trans Voter Suppression in 2020

Secretary of State Alex Padilla aims to make sure none of the state’s 150,000 registered trans voters are turned away.

Poll workers across California will be getting an education in the next 130 days on gender identity and pronouns. That’s the time between now and the presidential primary for the 2020 election.

On Friday, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced a statewide plan to educate polling workers on transgender issues in an effort to combat voter suppression.

“Every eligible voter has a right to cast a ballot free from any unnecessary burdens or intimidation,” said Padilla in a statement. “Elections officials have a duty to facilitate the participation of all eligible voters."

Last year, LGBTQ think tank the Williams Institute at UCLA predicted that voter ID laws would prevent 78,000 transgender people from voting. Last November, a transgender woman in Vermont was denied a ballot to vote in the first gubernatorial race with a transgender candidate in U.S. history because a poll worker refused to accept the gender marker on her ID. That candidate was Christine Hallquist (pictured below), who ultimately didn't win her bid for governor.

Stephanie Keith / Stringer

HYDE PARK, VT - NOVEMBER 06: Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist votes on November 6, 2018 in Hyde Park, Vermont. Hallquist made history in August after winning the Democratic nomination, becoming the first openly transgender person nominated by a major party in a governor's race.(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

The Williams Institute currently estimates that 190,000 trans people are eligible to vote in the state of California—and roughly 150,000 of those nearly 200,000 Californians are already registered.

Padilla says that even though California law doesn’t require photo ID for voting, if someone’s name on the voter doesn’t match their gender presentation, they are more likely to encounter problems at the polls when trying to vote.

The new initiative is in partnership with statewide LGBTQ organization Equality California. In addition to training poll workers, the state will be handing out brochures make sure trans voters know their voting rights at the polls, and working to boost LGBTQ voter turnout with nonpartisan messaging.

“No one should be denied the right to vote because of their gender identity or expression — and there’s certainly too much at stake next year to let that happen in California,” said Equality California Institute Executive Director Rick Zbur in a statement. “While other states impose strict, unnecessary voter ID laws targeting people of color and the LGBTQ community, California is making sure every single eligible voter has a chance to cast a ballot.”

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