TRANScend the Ballot: What to Know When Voting While Trans
By: Ben Palmer
September 29, 2020
Elections have been highly litigated in Wisconsin. Always consult an official, government resource for the latest information on voting. In Wisconsin, elections are run by city or county clerks’ offices. Enter your address here to determine your Municipal Clerk. Then, search for your clerk’s name or office name to locate their official website to access the latest information on voting.
Voting After a Name Change
In Wisconsin, a name change becomes effective for the purposes of voting when you receive a new photo ID. It is not effective for the purposes of voting until you have received that ID, even if you have requested it or have had your name legally changed by a court. (See our Guide for information on how to pursue a name or gender marker change and update your identity documents.) If you have changed your name and received your new photo ID, your name change is effective for voting and you must update your voter registration with your current name (see below, Registering to Vote).
Photo IDs are often Wisconsin Drivers Licenses or ID cards issued by the Wisconsin DMV. An updated U.S. Passport is also sufficient, as are several other forms of ID. See this resource from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) for more types of acceptable ID. If you have applied for a new photo ID but have not yet received it, you should continue to vote using your prior name and voter registration (unless your address has changed, in which case only update your address).
Gender identity or expression should not impede your access to the polls. If you are voting with a photo ID in which you express your gender differently than you do currently, you should still vote. Wisconsin Law requires only that a photo “reasonably resemble” the voter presenting the ID. Wis. Stat. § 6.79(2)(a). Election Officials are prohibited from commenting on your appearance, weight, or other physical features. Election Officials are explicitly instructed to treat you with “dignity and respect.” Similarly, Election Officials have no reason to comment on the gender marker on your photo ID. The only data from the ID that they are allowed to consider is whether you reasonably resemble the photo and whether the name on the ID matches the name on the voter rolls. If you are anxious about voting with an outdated photo, you may consider requesting an absentee ballot. (See below, Voting Absentee).
Confidential Voter Registration
If you are a survivor of intimate partner violence, stalking, or other violence, you should know that when you register to vote your current address will become public to anyone who knows your name and birthdate. Similarly, if you are transgender, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary and have legally changed your name, or go by a name different than your legal name, registering to vote may out you. If someone knows where you live, they can use your address to look up your voter registration which reveals your current legal name. Admittedly, this requires effort and some level of knowledge. However, there are ways to protect yourself.
If you are a survivor of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or stalking, you may have your voter registration listed confidentially. Wis. Stat. § 6.47. You are eligible to take advantage of this option if any one of the following applies to you:
- A court has granted you a protective order that is in effect;
- A sheriff, chief of police, or district attorney has provided you a signed affidavit verifying that you were the victim of one such crimes and you continue to be threatened;
- An authorized representative of a domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking victim services provider can sign an affidavit ([Example]) verifying you either
- reside in the facility; or
- received services within the prior 24 months; or
- Proof you participate in the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Safe at Home address confidentiality program.
If any of those situations apply, you can request a confidential listing of your voter registration. To do so, you’ll need to register in person at your Municipal Clerk’s office with:
- A copy of this form;
- A copy of whichever of the above four documents applies to your situation;
- A valid photo ID; and
- Proof of residence so that you can fulfill your voter registration.
Because many Municipal Clerks have altered hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact your clerk before going to their office to ask for their current procedures.
Registering to Vote
Wisconsin voters may register to vote up until 5:00 pm 20 days before the election. For the 2020 Presidential Election, that is 5:00 pm on October 14, 2020. If you miss this deadline, you can still register on election day by going in person to your polling place.
If you do not know whether you are registered to vote, visit myvote.wi.gov and use your name and date of birth to look up your voter registration. If you are not registered, you may register online using the same website. If you moved in the last 28 days, you should vote at the prior Wisconsin address where you lived for at least 28 days. This time period was changed by court order and is current as of writing. You will need a valid photo ID.
If you do not have a valid photo ID, you should complete the voter registration form by proceeding through the online process to do so here. You will then need to mail or deliver your form to your Municipal Clerk (locate them here) along with a proof of residence document.
NOTE: If you need to register to vote and it is after October 14, 2020 (20 days from the election), registration by mail is no longer available. You may still use the online process to complete the form, but bring it and a proof of residence document in-person to your Municipal Clerk’s office by 5:00 pm October 30. Because many Municipal Clerks have altered hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact your clerk before going to their office to ask for their current procedures.
Alternatively, you may bring the form with you to your polling place on election day or complete the form at your polling place with the assistance of an Election Official (they will have copies of the form), just be sure to bring an acceptable proof of residence document. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your polling place may be different than where it is normally. Check here on election day to ensure that you know where to go.
If you have a valid Wisconsin photo ID, but the address is out of date, you may update your address with the Wisconsin DMV online free of charge. You do not need to visit a DMV location or pay for a new ID to make this change. Visit their website here. Once this change is made, the DMV system will update myvote.wi.gov and you may proceed to register to vote online, here.
MyVote está disponible en Inglés y Español. Registrarse para votar aquí.
After you register to vote, or if you are already registered, you may request an absentee ballot here. Absentee ballots can be tracked throughout the entire process almost as if they were a package from an online retailer. If you would prefer not to return your ballot by mail, many Municipal Clerks have established secure election drop boxes. Absentee ballots can also be dropped off on election day at your polling place. Contact your Municipal Clerk for more information.
Thank you for preparing to vote! Voting is one of the foundational ways we can steer the course of our communities. Don’t forget to also fill out your census. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and is available in 13 languages online and moreover the phone.
We hope that you can have a safe and fulfilling experience on election day. If you do not, there are procedures for filing complaints with the WEC and the Federal Elections Commission. Be aware, however, that these processes quickly become complicated. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin also has a voter assistance hotline: (608) 336-3232.