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California to offer training to help transgender, gender nonconforming voters

Transgender Voters Alex Padilla

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks at Equality California’s annual Fair Share for Equality policy forum in San Francisco. During his remarks, Padilla announced that his office and Equality California will partner on a groundbreaking program to to train poll workers to make it easier for gender-nonconforming and transgender voters to cast ballots. Photo: Equality California.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla will announce Friday a groundbreaking partnership with Equality California an LGBTQ to train poll workers to make it easier for gender-nonconforming and transgender voters to cast ballots, the LGBTQ civil rights group said.

In most cases, California voters are not required to show identification to a polling-place worker. However, many transgender and gender-nonconforming voters may be registered under a name that does not match their gender presentation.

That situation can lead to encounters when voters are asked to produce additional identification such as their Social Security card or even a utility bill.

Advocates and state officials fear that such experiences could depress turnout among California’s estimated 190,000 eligible transgender voters, potentially affecting tight races.

“Every eligible voter has a right to cast a ballot free from any unnecessary burdens or intimidation,” Padilla said in a statement. “Elections officials have a duty to facilitate the participation of all eligible voters.

“By partnering with Equality California we can benefit from their expertise and experience to better train poll workers and ensure a welcoming voting environment for LGBTQ citizens,” he said.

Padilla will announce the program Friday at Equality California’s annual Fair Share for Equality policy forum in San Francisco. He expects to have the training completed for the March 3 primary.

In California, 63% of transgender adults who have transitioned reported that they had no ID or records that accurately reflect their gender, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey that was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“Even though there may not be a mandate to do something or a need to respond to a million complaints about it, I’d rather not wait to do something about it,” Padilla told The San Francisco Chronicle in an article posted Friday. He said training poll workers will be done at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The partnership will include three parts:

  • Development and distribution of training materials to county registrars that promote best practices for poll workers to engage with voters whose gender identity, expression or pronouns do not appear to match their name on the voter rolls
  • Development of content such as brochures, posters and digital media to inform transgender and gender-nonconforming voters of their rights
  • Targeted nonpartisan ‘Get Out the Vote’ communications and 2020 census outreach efforts to increase civic participation within the LGBTQ community

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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