Voter Identity and Trans* Voters

voters at registration table, Rockville, MD

You, as a poll worker, will probably encounter situations new to you while working at the polls. It is significant to remember that your identification of a perspective voter’s sex is not required in order for them to qualify to vote. A voter’s name that, from your perspective, does not fit a stereotypical “female” or “male” image should not pose a particular frustration or problem to you. Their sex is irrelevant in the identification process for voting.

Please do be prepared to maintain a respectful demeanor as you receive transgender (Trans*) and gender non-conforming (GNC) people among the voters that you serve at the polls. Your perception of whether a voter is a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’ could be wrong and lead to an embarrassing situation. Place yourself and the voter at ease by not attempting to put voters into one of those two categories.

When greeting each voter, simply say “hello” or “welcome” to keep from making a mistake about their sex.

[Do not use labels such as “ma’am” or “sir”, or Ms/Miss/Mr in your greeting.]

EXAMPLE: “Next. Hello, may I have your name please?”

If speaking to someone else about the voter, refer to the voter as “this person.”

[Not “this lady” or “this man” and do not use pronouns such as: she, her, or hers, or he, him, or his.]

EXAMPLE: “Chief Judge, this voter has a question about the identification law. I told this person that you could be of help.”

A Trans* person may request to speak with someone at the “help” table, preferring not to discuss or show any additional documentation in response to any questions about their identity near other voters. Please assist the voter in this way to help maintain the voter’s confidentiality.

Your kindness and respect is very much appreciated. I have friends who identify as female and are called “sir,” a dreadful mistake. I myself am called “sir” sometimes, and “ma’am” at other times, while I am very uncomfortable and retreat from situations to avoid being called either one because I identify as GNC. It is best for everyone to not make any guesses in order to avoid the disrespect and discomfort of making a mistake.

You play such an important role in ensuring that every eligible person experiences voting as accessible to them, making sure that each person is given the opportunity to vote so their voice will be heard.

J Zirbel, ED/Rev [No pronouns, simply J]

About the Author

Rev. J Zirbel

J Zirbel (no pronouns, simply J) is a minister, ordained in the Church Within A Church Movement and co-founder and executive director for Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares).

J served on the Governance Committee of the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs (NCAVP), as a member program of NCAVP, a non-profit working to ...