LGBTQ+ Tips for Navigating Elections

From miserable weather to lengthy lines at the polling place to voter suppression laws, voters face a multitude of challenges. However, LGBTQ folks are often hit with other barriers that tend to go unaddressed. 

You can use your PA driver’s license number or Social Security Number to register to vote. If you have legally changed your name, make sure at least one of these numbers corresponds to your legal name – it doesn’t have to be both. If you have not changed your name legally and go by a preferred name, you will unfortunately still have to use that legal name to register and vote. However, you can alleviate some dysphoria by requesting a mail-in ballot to avoid verbally checking-in under your legal name with a poll worker. (The last day to register to vote is today, October 23, and the final day to request a mail-in ballot is October 31.) 

If you just registered or re-registered to vote or if it’s your first time voting at a polling place, presenting identification is a requirement. Showing an ID that could have an outdated photo and/or a name you don’t identify with can be nerve-racking for members of the trans community. There is no way around this requirement. However, here are some tips that will hopefully ease the pain of this process:

  1. If you are voting in-person and are anxious about checking in to vote, try bringing a friend or ally with you as a support person. 
  2. When voting, your ID does NOT need to have a photo. If you don’t have a photo ID you feel comfortable showing, you can use a form of identification without a photo that still includes your name and address. I recommend using your voter registration card because it will not only have your name and address, but it also confirms your polling place.
  3. If you do choose to use a photo ID, the photo does NOT need to match your current presentation. This means there is no need to rush to the DMV for a new license photo. As long as your name and address match what is on the poll worker’s book, you can vote. 
  4. If you ever feel unsafe during the voting process, call the National Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) for help.
  5. If you run into any issues, you can always ask to cast a provisional ballot.

As part of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), I work to mobilize “equality voters”: voters who are not necessarily part of the LGBTQ community but have LGBTQ+ issues as a deciding factor when choosing who to vote for. We know that LGBTQ people vote at higher rates than the general public, but equality voters don’t always vote — especially in off-year elections. That’s why we as a community encourage you to reach out to your friends and family to encourage them to vote as well. 

LGBTQ rights in the past have been defined by the high-profile elections at the top of the ballot. But recently even local government, judicial, and school board elections have been pivotal in deciding the fate of rights for minority communities. 

This November there are key races on the ballot, including races for the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and Allegheny County Executive. The outcomes will heavily impact the fate of our community’s freedoms for a long time. That’s why it’s not only important for you to vote, but also for you to mobilize your allies to vote so that our community can fight against what we consider a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans. 

Our rights don’t stop after election day. Here at the HRC, we work tirelessly to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community year-round. We have teamed up with our partners at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, The Trevor Project, and other pro-equality organizations across the state to host an LGBTQ+ Rights Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg. 

Please join us on October 24th to help advocate for bills that would advance our safety and quality of life in the commonwealth and to urge our officials to vote against any that would do otherwise!

And just remember, if you’re in line to vote, don’t just stay in line to vote– slay in line.

Drew Medvid is the PA State Organizer for the Human Rights Campaign.