As Senate Democrats on Wednesday failed to pass voting rights legislation in the face of Republican opposition, LGBTQ+ advocates grew worried about how rising voter restrictions being passed in states will disproportionately harm LGBTQ+ Americans — especially people of color and people with disabilities, who face multiple intersecting barriers.
Although the House had been previously passedA merged version of John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (and the Freedom to Vote Act) was proposed to reverse some of these rules but it was blocked by the Senate without the support of moderate Democrats. changing the filibusterThis leaves the future of federal voting rights legislation uncertain.
Other important advocacy groups include two that support abortion rights, also spoke out to support a filibuster for voting rights in advance of Wednesday’s Senate vote.
The Human Rights Campaign, National LGBTQ+ Task Force, and National Black Justice Coalition — which advocates for Black LGBTQ+ people — are among the groups that called on LGBTQ+ people to pressure their senators into supporting the federal protections.
Nineteen states passed 34 laws last year restricting voting access — the most tracked by the Brennan Center for JusticeSince 2011, when it began counting. According to Gallup data, seven of these states have the highest percentage of LGBT people in the country. Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law — including Georgia Florida, which enacted extensive voting restrictions. According to the Brennan Center, at least four states had filed restrictive bills in December.
Throughout this, voting rights advocates have expressed concern that without stronger federal protections, the state-level restrictions may effectively disenfranchise citizens who do not have the resources to meet new voting requirements — primarily people of color, who are often unable to vote due to strict voter ID laws and are subject to disproportionately severe punishments longer Election Day voting linesThis could be offset with extended early voting hours.
LGBTQ+ advocates are already attuned for statehouse maneuvers following a record yearPay attention to anti-transgender legislation Estimates based on older data analyzed and reported by the Movement Advancement Project(MAP) show that 1 out of 3 LGBTQ+ people reside in the South. Eight states have passed restrictive voting laws. According to the same MAP analysis citing 2014 Williams Institute data 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ Southerners were Black.
“That’s a significant percentage of LGBTQ folks, who also happen to be Black, that are going to be experiencing a return of Jim Crow-era tactics,” said Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition.
Recent laws that require photo identification in order to vote have been passed. This would prohibit many transgender or nonbinary people from casting their votes. Many of the community members face legal and financial obstacles to updating documents as they change. The 2020 election is fast approaching. Williams Institute estimatedAround 42 percent of eligible trans people would be unable vote if they did not have identification that reflects and meets state requirements.
Diego Sanchez, director for advocacy and policy at PFLAG, which advocates for LGBTQ+ families, said that it can be difficult for trans people to be challenged about their identity while trying to vote.
Prior to legally changing his name to Diego around 1994, and when some of his legal documents still bore his deadname — his name pre-transition — he feared being challenged over his identity at the polls.
“At any point at a voting place, someone if they knew me could say ‘I know that’s not that’s not your name.’ They could yell up my deadname, if they knew that. I would rather die,” he said. “It’s hard … because where you vote is where you live, so those people would see me the rest of my life.”
There are also physical barriers that must be considered.
Legislation passed in states including Alabama and Texas last year to restrict curbside or drive-through voting, as well as separate efforts to make signature requirements for mail-in voting more strict, can make casting a ballot more difficult for voters with disabilities, said Bobby Hoffman, deputy director of the ACLU’s democracy division. Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation — as well as data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey — shows that LGBTQ+ people in the United States dispropriately report living with a disability than the rest of the population.
“All polling places are not as accessible as they should be,” Kirby York said.
The reduction of curbside or drive-through voting also can restrict ballot access for people working low-wage jobs that don’t allow for time off to vote.
“LGBTQ workers are more likely to be in jobs with lower pay, and without paid time off, meaning if there is a really long line at your polling station, your boss may not be forgiving or understanding to let you be able to cast your ballot because you’re standing in line for three, four or five, six hours,” said Ross Murray, senior director of GLAAD’s media institute.
Without federal protections, advocates and experts fear that LGBTQ+ people — and all voters — will be further impacted by state voting restrictions.
“Access to the ballot box is a fundamental right in this country – a right that is currently under threat,” HRC interim president Joni Madison said in a statement following Wednesday night’s vote. “The voting rights legislation that was before the Senate aimed to protect marginalized populations such as LGBTQ+ people, Black and Brown people, the elderly, low-income people and people with disabilities.”
“My fear is that we’re going to see a continuation of the wave of voter suppression laws that were passed by state legislatures in 2021,” Hoffman said.
Several state laws have been challenged in court. The ACLU is suing two voter restriction laws. MontanaDenounced by Native American advocacy groupsAs well as Texas’ omnibus bill to implement voting restrictions and Georgia’s far-reaching voting law, which is also being challengedby the Justice Department.
GLAAD and HeadCount are both supported by the National Black Justice Coalition. encourage LGBTQ+ voters to check their state identification laws if they are trying to figure out how to vote while homeless or if their name doesn’t match what’s on their ID.
LGBTQ+ advocacy groups need to rally around voting rights ahead of the midterms, pressure lawmakers to pass federal protections and actively protest against state restrictions, Kirby York said — or risk losing credibility.
“If we’re not seen doing it, we lose all forms of legitimacy as a movement when it comes to wanting other communities to show up for us,” she said.