Last Updated: February 11, 2022
LGBTQ+ adults in the United States voted at record rates in the 2020 election. However, this masks the reality that a substantial portion of LGBTQ+ adults have experienced barriers to voting in the past, including explicit forms of discrimination and voter suppression at the ballot box.
In this page, we use self-reported data from the HRC Foundation’s 2019 Voter Experience Study, to report the lifetime voting experiences and barriers to voting encountered by over 4,000 LGBTQ+ adults (age 18+) from across the United States. Findings suggest the community has faced multiple barriers to voting, including being dropped from voter rolls, intimidated or denied the right to vote due to their sexual or gender identity, and issues obtaining or displaying approved voter ID. These barriers were particularly pronounced for transgender adults, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) LGBTQ+ adults, and Black and Latinx transgender adults.
DROPPED FROM VOTER ROLLS
In our sample, more than 10% of LGBTQ+ voters, more than a quarter of transgender voters, and over 40% of BIPOC transgender voters were unable to vote due to being unknowingly dropped from the voter rolls. These would-be voters were turned away at the voting booth after showing up to vote, where they found they were “taken off the voter registration list.”
|Dropped From Voter Rolls||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
VOTER ID BARRIERS
An issue with meeting voter identification requirements led approximately a quarter of BIPOC LGBTQ+ adults, over half of transgender adults, and more than 60% of BIPOC transgender adults to either choose not to vote, or to be unable/ineligible to vote in at least one election in their lifetime.
|Voter ID Barriers||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
Furthermore, almost half of transgender adults–and over half each of BIPOC, Black, and Latinx transgender adults–reported they either chose not to vote, or were unable to vote, as a result of their identification documents (including name and gender marker) not matching their current name, gender expression or presentation.
|Name and Gender Marker Discrepancy||Transgender Adults|
Almost 46% of LGBTQ+ voters, more than 60% of transgender voters, and over 71% of BIPOC transgender voters, had been prevented from voting in at least one election in their lifetime due to logistical barriers such as inconvenient polling times and locations, childcare duties, issues requesting, receiving, and/or returning their absentee ballot on time.
|Logistical Barriers||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
Across race/ethnicity and gender identity, issues specifically related to absentee ballots led between 5% and 10% of LGBTQ+ adults to be unable to vote in at least one election in their lifetime, including:
|Absentee Ballot Issues||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
EXPERIENCED OR FEARED DISCRIMINATION
Over 5% of LGBTQ+ adults had been prevented from voting in their lifetime due to their sexual identity, gender identity, and/or race. This jumped to almost a fifth of transgender adults–and over 30% of BIPOC transgender adults.
5.3% LGBTQ+ would-be voters, and 19.1% of transgender would-be voters, were not allowed to vote because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or race or ethnicity, including:
|Barred from voting due to sexual identity, gender identity, and/or race/ethnicity||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
Almost one in ten (9.6%) of transgender would-be voters were not allowed to vote due to their gender identity, including
|Barred from voting due to gender identity||Transgender People|
More than 2% of BIPOC LGBTQ+ would-be voters were not allowed to vote due to their race and/or ethnicity, with rates substantially higher for Black and Latinx transgender adults:
|Barred from voting due to race/ethnicity||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults||Non-Transgender Adults|
Almost 17% of LGBTQ+ adults, including more than a quarter of BIPOC LGBTQ+ adults, more than 40% of transgender adults, and more than half of BIPOC transgender adults, chose not to vote because of fear of being harassed while voting due to their due to their sexual identity, gender identity, and/or race.
16.6% of LGBTQ+ would-be voters chose not to vote in order to “avoid being harassed or judged by election officials” due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or race or ethnicity:
|Did not vote due to fear of harassment for sexual identity, gender identity, and/or race/ethnicity||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
More than three in ten (31.8%) transgender would-be voters chose not to vote in order to avoid being harassed or judged because of their gender identity:
|"Did not vote due to fear of harassment for gender identity||Transgender Adults|
Over 7% of BIPOC LGBTQ+ would-be voters, including more than twice as many (15.9%) BIPOC transgender voters, chose not to vote in order to avoid being harassed or judged because of their race or ethnicity:
|Did not vote due to fear of harassment for race/ethnicity||LGBTQ+ Adults||Transgender Adults|
Read HRC’s research on Vote by Mail and Voters of Color.
All data come from the 2019 LGBTQ Voting Experience Survey, a survey of over 4,300 LGBTQ+ adults conducted in August-October of 2019 by the HRC Foundation. The survey was conducted online in Spanish and English, with respondents recruited through outreach, targeted advertising, promotion on social media platforms and an over-sample using Alchemer panel services. Analyses are limited to the 4,258 respondents who completed the entire survey, and provided valid data on race/ethnicity. All percentages reflect self-reports, and are weighted using survey weights derived by the HRC Foundation which allow our sample to approximate the racial/ethnic distribution of the LGBTQ+ population, as reported by The Williams Institute.
Transgender adults include those who answered “yes” when asked if they “identify as transgender.”
BIPOC adults (including BIPOC transgender adults) include those who reported any race/ethnicity other than exclusively white, including those who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Latinx; Middle Eastern or North African; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; or any two+ race/ethnicities (including white plus some other race/ethnicity).
Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ adults (including Black and Latinx transgender adults) include those who identified as this race/ethnicity, either exclusively or in combination with any other race/ethnicity.
Issues meeting voter identification requirements include “My gender, name, and/or photo on my identification documents (ID) did not exactly match my gender presentation”; “I got married and my name on my voter ID did not match my voter registration”; “I didn't have the identification documents (ID)”; “I thought my state's voter ID law could stop me from registering”
Non-absentee logistical barriers include “Childcare or family issues prevented me”; “Transportation problems”; “Bad weather conditions”; “I was too busy/had conflicting work or school schedule”; “Inconvenient hours, polling place, or line was too long.”