Letter to the Editor: I’m trans and I’m scared of Paul Pate’s Voter ID Law

I’m trans and I am scared of the new Voter-ID Laws.

A lot of people know me as that obnoxious person asking them to register to vote in Iowa. That’s a label I wear as a badge of honor. No matter if it annoys them, I will fight for everyone to know how important it is to vote.

Now, imagine me not voting. It’s hard to picture me not voting out of my own volition, but with recent legislation, I could be disenfranchised. I’m trans, and I’m scared of the new Voter-ID Law.

The Iowa House and Senate passed our Secretary of State’s, Iowa’s top election official, proposed “Election Integrity” Bill.  He likes to say that the bill is primarily made of regulations that would bring all of our 99 county auditors up to speed on the technology needed to run an election. In reality, this bill does so much more. It requires that Iowans provide some form of government issued ID to be able to vote at the polls. The obvious concern is that while many of us Grinnell College students vote in the state of Iowa, we do not have an Iowa driver’s license or state issued ID. We also tend not to have a military ID and many of us don’t have passports. To alleviate this, Paul Pate has proposed that each person who registers to vote who does not have an Iowa Department of Transportation issued ID will receive a voter registration card.

While this is a nice thought that may save Paul Pate some legal trouble, this voter ID card is entirely dependent on the funding being appropriated by our state legislature. Keep in mind that they have already slashed tens of millions of dollars from the public education, the judicial system and see increasing costs from the failed privatization of Medicaid that has caused the closure of Central Iowa Family Planning.

While I worry about the general implementation of this legislation, it goes a little bit deeper. Many people understand the anxiety of trying to be who you are in a place that does not accept you. It’s often a decision of which pains you more. There’s the choice of trying to hide who you are. I won’t wear nail polish even though that color looks beautiful with my coat. I won’t wear this beautiful dress even though I know I look hot in it. I won’t correct that person mis-gendering me because I need to keep my job and I know they’re in a bad mood. On the reverse, when I look in the mirror sometimes I hate the way I look. I don’t look like what I want to on a fundamental level. This dichotomy haunts me daily. Now I’ll have to face that when I cast my ballot. I have to worry about whether or not the sweet woman working the polling station is going to think “Is this person really Austin Wadle” when my driver’s license says I’m a man and the picture was taken years ago. I came to Iowa knowing that my right to marry who I want was decided years before I came out. I came knowing that I would have legal recourse if I was denied housing, employment or public accommodations. These were all reasons I knew I could come to Iowa for school and for a future, but if I can’t even cast a constitutionally guaranteed ballot as a result of the unnecessary laws that a cisgender, heterosexual man wants, I don’t know if this is a state that I can have a future in.

-Austin Wadle ’18

wadleaus@grinnell.edu


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