Trans people are furious at the UK government’s new electoral registration system, forcing them to provide a previous name in order to be eligible to vote.
The new online voter registration system means that trans individuals cannot register to vote unless they provide false information or they out themselves publicly with no guarantee their data will be protected under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
Rolled out in October of this year, the new system was implemented over concerns individuals not entitled to vote might register with the intention of doing so.
When filling out the forms, it offers two options. The first allows you to register manually by sending in a range of paper proofs of identity including passport, birth certificate, bank statements and bills.
This is cumbersome in itself – many trans persons part of the way through their transition will undoubtedly find this difficult to comply with all of the requirements.
But if they attempt to register through the online option, some have reported this is equally unusable as it requires them to put themselves at risk by demanding they out themselves with no explanation of who will handle their personal data or how it will be stored.
One individual who failed to register in this fashion said: ‘The "majority" is just blind/arrogant to the needs of the minority, even though – with a moment’s thought, and NO downside to that majority – some thoughtfulness could be applied which means that some others could receive their basic rights? Trans people face this shit all the time.’
On the voting registration site, implemented by the Cabinet Office, individuals are asked to state where they live, their nationality and when they were born. They are then asked to give their name, and further, to state if they have ever changed their name.
There are three possible answers: never, in the last year, more than a year ago.
The first allows the would-be voter to move on to the next screen. The second leads to a request for previous name. So, too, does the third, despite the fact this is accompanied by a statement that says: ‘As you changed your name more than a year ago you don’t have to tell us your previous name, but you might need to send us copies of identity documents if you don’t.’
Individuals who attempt to move past this screen without providing a previous name are blocked.
Gay Star News has heard from individuals who are fully entitled to vote, but changed their names up to a decade ago.
One eventually gave up and said she had never changed her name, thereby providing the system with false information. A second refused to provide previous name details to a system which gave no guarantee of how secure her details would be. She is now applying using the manual system.
Both pointed out the online system was inconsistent with the manual one, which is focused on details of proof of identity now, without requiring people to provide previous name detail.
The Cabinet Office has previously consulted with the trans community over issues of online identity.
But this time, they refused to answer any questions put to them and instead
provided background to us which suggests the system demand for previous name is actually what was intended – and not a glitch.
According to this: ‘The aim of asking for information about changes to name is to ensure that in as many cases as possible applications for voter registration are verified automatically without the need for anyone to handle documents.’
A spokesperson added: ‘We’ve launched the new online system to make voter registration as accessible and accurate as possible. The service has been extensively tested with a wide range of users to ensure the data the service collects allows the verification of an individual’s identity.
‘The website consistently achieves a very high satisfaction score. We will continue to improve the service based on user feedback.’
This approach to identity is likely to result in a number of trans individuals not registering to vote in next May’s General Election.
UPDATE: This article has been updated following new information from the Cabinet Office.
UPDATE TWO: The UK is planning to force you to reveal your previous name under draft legislation. Read more here.