I’ve been writing for months about the PA Voter ID issue, beginning during efforts to keep PA HB 934 from becoming a law and since highlighting the efforts to combat the unjust law. I have had a desire too, to try and educate my readers, many of whom are LGBTQ, why this is a Queer issue, even if on the surface it doesn’t appear as if it were. So often, we think about legislation as being “queer” only if it deals exclusively with LGBTQ victimization, like combatting discrimination, countering hate crimes, or allowing same-sex marriage. But in reality, many pieces of legislation have paramount effects on the LGBTQ collective of communities, and we must, as a community, begin to be active alongside other progressive groups, surrounding these issues.
The PA Voter ID law is one such law that our community should be out in full force to both fight as well as do whatever we can to minimize the impact of this law on November’s and future elections. Writing about this months ago, prompted an email exchange with someone who reads the Pittsburgh Queer Events Listing listserv. That individual believed the Voter ID bill (it was PA HB 934) was a good thing because it protected their vote from being invalidated by illegal aliens. This was the scare message of the conservative right about the need for this bill. This person was happy to work for socially progressive bills like non-discrimination, etc, but they bought in fully to this conservative effort.
But the reality is two-fold. First, no evidence exists that voter fraud exists in any way that warrants this law. There is a greater likelihood that a malfunctioning voting machine will invalidate a person’s vote than an illegal alien. But a second point can not be stressed enough. The PA Voter ID law will harm LGBTQ Pennsylvanians by the way it will disenfranchise younger voters.
Before I articulate that point, I want to say something about the very direct attack this law has upon our community by the way it impedes trans persons from voting. The person who emailed me didn’t seem to care about trans persons, a position held by too many gays and lesbians. It is difficult to say how many trans men and trans women are effected, as we don’t have any way of counting this part of our community. But this is a real and immediate issue too.
But the whole of the LGBTQ community, even those who would throw the trans folks under the bus will be adversely impacted by this law. Here is why.
As I mentioned in a post earlier, another constituent community very hard hit by this law, are students, who are mostly in the 18-24 year old range. This age group, no matter their party affiliation, tend to be more socially progressive and support all sorts of LGBTQ legislative issues like non-discrimination protections, and even same-sex marriage. It is estimated that as many as 600,000 Pennsylvanians in this age group will be kept from voting for not having the proper ID, keeping their voice from this election, as well as diminishing the likelihood that they will vote in future elections. It is good news to the LGBTQ community that young people support our issues, but if we set up a scenario where this group of voters are less likely to vote, it won’t help our efforts for full equality. And if we do not step forward- and by “we” I mean the whole of the LGBTQ community- to stop voter suppression efforts, we will have no one but ourselves to blame as our progress towards full equality is thwarted.
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