Confusion for transgender people and others registering to vote

Published: Jun. 29, 2016 at 12:51 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

As election offices across Kansas prepare for upcoming races, there's a scramble to make sure everyone is registered properly.

But there are groups of people, including those who are transgender or change their name, who experience more problems than others.

When you show up to vote on election day, and know you registered, you expect the process to be easy.

That's what Brenda Way thought when she tired to vote in 2014.

"When I went to vote, they turned me away because I did not match my ID," said Way.

That's about the same time Way started her transition from a man to a woman, so she still had her old ID with her old name.

"Anytime you have a change, like an address change, a name change, or you know, one of the things we're starting to see now is a gender change, is you need to make sure we're aware of that and you get your registration updated," said Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner.

Way eventually got a new driver's license and social security card with her new legal name and registered to vote at the DMV. But that only made her eligible to vote in federal races, not state or local because she did not provide a proof of citizenship.

To provide that, she needs a birth certificate with her correct gender from Minnesota, where she was born.

"To get a copy, I just can't afford it," said Way. "I live in poverty and I just haven't been able to afford to get it."

But Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County's Election Commissioner says there are other ways.

The Affidavit of Evidence of U.S. Citizenship (Form CDU) form allows someone who's name or sex is now different than their birth certificate to apply for an exception.

Way says she did that a month ago and hasn't heard anything.

Another way to fix your voter registration if you've had changes is to link it to your old registration.

"I would say the biggest thing that's causing confusion is if they don't give us the information of how they were previously registered and we're not able to tie it to their current, you know if it's a dramatic change, for instance if it's a gender and a name change and we don't know to tie that to the original file," said Lehman.

Way and others in her position are currently fighting to make registering less confusing and easier to do.

Tom Witt with Equality Kansas says when it comes to changing the sex on your birth certificate, the state of Kansas will not do it.

He says he personally knows of more than a dozen people who've had this problem, and that there are hundreds more likely impacted.