Transgender voter sues state, Mecklenburg County claiming discrimination

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every vote counts, but a Mecklenburg County transgender voter says she was almost denied that right. She says she was able to cast a ballot last November after first being made to feel like she was “on trial.”

“Voting is very important to me,” said a woman who is listed in court records as ‘Jane Doe.’ FOX 46 agreed to withhold her identity, at her request, because not everyone she knows is aware she is transgender.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday against the state and Mecklenburg County Board of Elections, she alleges she was discriminated against and almost prevented from voting because of how she looks.

“I was disrespected. I was frowned upon,” said Doe. “I was outcasted. And I felt like I was on trial for something I never did wrong. All I did was want to vote.”

Doe alleges she was discriminated against at the Cornelius Town Hall by poll workers and Chief Judge of Precinct 202 Yolanda Jackson. In her lawsuit, she says Jackson demanded to see identification, which is not required to vote.

“She said, ‘Well it’s a requirement for you that you show your ID,’” Doe recalled.  

Doe’s license has a female photo and a male name because her name has not been legally changed yet. The lawsuit accuses poll workers of scrutinizing Doe because her “face does not match” her name, the lawsuit states.

Attorney Faith Fox represents Doe. At a news conference Wednesday, she says she reached out multiple times to the board of elections but was met with silence. Fox says she is suing as “a last resort” and to prevent other transgender voters from facing discrimination.

“To seek not only justice for my client but to acknowledge the fact that this is going to be a problem across the country,” said Fox.  

The North Carolina State Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment. On its website, the BOE notes: “Voters are not required to show photo id for the March 2020 primary election.” In December, a federal judge blocked North Carolina’s voter ID law from taking effect, partially citing racial discrimination.

FOX 46 reached out to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections for comment. Reached by phone, a spokesperson initially said what happened to Doe was an “innocent mistake” that should not have occurred. The spokesperson said “in today’s world” gender identity “puts a wrinkle” in voter identification but then tried to say, after the fact, that the previous remarks were off the record – terms that a FOX 46 reporter never agreed to. The spokesperson then denied making the previous remarks and said the county’s only comment is: “This is an open lawsuit” before hanging up.

“Everyone shall be equal,” said Doe. “Everyone has the right to vote”

Doe says she asked for, and was denied, an apology. The lawsuit alleges poll workers violated the state’s equal protection clause and seeks damages for more than $25,000 for emotional distress. Doe’s attorney wants poll workers to undergo sensitivity and implicit bias training.

Read the NC BOE’s voter ID notice here.

Read the injunction here.

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