New website aims to improve voter access for trans, non binary individuals 

pcozzolino@ricentral.com

WARWICK - Hoping to reduce barriers to voting for trans, non-binary and gender-diverse Rhode Islanders, Thundermist Health Center recently launched TransVoteRI.com. The informative website aims to assist individuals whose identification documents, which are required at polling places, may not match their appearance, gender or name and could provide an obstacle to voting in person. 

In an effort to reduce or eliminate such situations, TransVoteRI.com is a comprehensive guide showing, through videos and infographics, how to update one’s ID documents in Rhode Island. 

“We know voting is important to the health of a community,” said Trans Health Education and Policy Specialist Volta Tran. “This website helps to remove barriers in accessing and obtaining updated voter IDs and engage trans and non-binary communities in the civic process.” 

“The launch of the website coincides with Pride Month, a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of trans and LGBTQ+ individuals and reaffirm our commitment to stand together against the discrimination and injustices experienced by the trans and LGBTQ+ community,” said President/CEO Jeanne LaChance.  

The website includes a video produced in partnership with the City of Providence Board of Canvassers demonstrating step-by-step what voters can expect when casting a ballot in person. The content also includes a video produced in partnership with Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea outlining three common scenarios trans and non-binary voters navigate regarding photo IDs. 

“Gender identity should never exclude anyone from being a voter,” said Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. “I am committed to making sure every eligible Rhode Islander can cast their ballot safely and securely, and I am proud to partner with Thundermist Health Center to provide these important voting resources for our LGBTQ+ community.”  

Tips include making sure an individual is registered to vote with their legal name, making an appointment to change one’s legal name if desired at the state’s department of motor vehicles, which will automatically update voter registration, and checking personal voter records at vote.ri.gov. If citizens do not have a driver’s license or a state-issued ID, updating voter registration and obtaining a voter ID can be done at the RI Elections Division at 148 W River Street in Providence.

Gender identity is not a part of voter record in Rhode Island, and is not used to verify identities at the polls. 

The new online resource also provides guidance on the process for updating legal documents if changing a name and additional assistance for trans individuals headed to the polls. 

Thundermist Health Center includes a Trans Health Access Team who provide care to more than 1,200 individuals who identify as trans or non binary, according to the healthcare company. The team is a group of medical, behavioral health and allied service professionals working to improve access to culturally and clinically competent health care for the trans community. 

Trans is an umbrella term that encompasses many identities including transgender, transsexual, gender non-conforming/variant/creative, non-binary, genderqueer, intersex, agender, and others. 

This project is supported by the XIX: Shall Not Be Denied: Why It Matters initiative of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, part of the nationwide “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

According to a study by the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, an estimated 378,000 eligible transgender voters do not possess identification that reflects their name, appearance or new gender identity. This can sometimes lead to challenges or harassment at the polls. 

“This kind of harassment has a chilling effect on all transgender and non-binary voters and increases the fear of being targeted, outed, or challenged at the polls, which serves to further suppress the power of their communities,” reads an article from the Brennan Center For Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. 

Thundermist Health Center is a full-service primary care provider with dental and behavioral health services. The non-profit community health center aims to improve the health of patients and communities by delivering exceptional health care, removing barriers to that care, and advancing healthy lifestyles. Thundermist has locations in West Warwick, Woonsocket and South County. The organization cares for patients regardless of insurance and ability to pay. In 2020, Thundermist cared for more than 50,000 patients. 

Learn more at www.thundermisthealth.org.

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