Toronto

Trans voters worry about outing themselves at the polls after receiving voter cards with old names

Despite legally changing their names and genders, some trans and non-binary voters received voter identification cards last month under their old names. They're worried they'll be forced to "out" themselves at the polls.

Elections Ontario says people can update any changes online

Cecilio Escobar says some trans voters will feel like they have to 'out' themselves at polling stations when they bring in voter cards issued under their previous name. (Ali Chiasson/CBC)

When Cecilio Escobar received his voter card in the mail he was floored. 

"I haven't seen this name in, like, three years now," he said.

Despite legally changing his name and gender, Escobar received a voter identification card last month under his old name.

He hasn't been "Morena Cecilia Escobar" since 2016. 

That's when Escobar, a trans man, legally changed his first name to Cecilio.
Cecilio Escobar was sent this voter information card with his female gendered, birth name Morena Cecilia Escobar, written on it. 'I haven't been that person since 2016,' he says. (Ali Chiasson/CBC)

He has all of his necessary ID cards updated with his new name.

But he's worried that other trans and non-binary people who had the same experience won't vote on June 7, because they're afraid they'll be forced to "out" themselves at the polls.

"I pay my income taxes in my new name and everything. This person doesn't exist anymore," he told CBC Toronto on Monday, referring to the name on the card that arrived in his mailbox in May.

I was like, 'oh my gosh. Am I going to be able to vote?'- Cecilio   Escobar , voter

"I freaked out a little because I was like, 'Oh my gosh. Am I going to be able to vote?'" 

The fact is, voters can still cast a ballot without the card, they just need a piece of identification that contains their current address. 

The cards are supposed to make it easier for voters to know where they can take advantage of advance voting, and the location of their polling station.

Escobar says he knew enough to visit the Elections Ontario website and he was able to get a new card reissued within a couple of days. 
Cecilio received a revised voter card within a couple of days. (Ali Chiasson/CBC )

But he worries about other trans and non-binary folks who don't know that the voter card is not necessary to vote and feel they have to explain why their name is different from the government IDs in their wallets.

"One of my friends had to out themselves at the voting place," he said.

"Luckily he felt comfortable and safe enough that he could do that, but not everybody has that luxury."

Elections Ontario doesn't collect gender-based information

Elections Ontario responded to CBC Toronto by explaining that Ontarians had all year to update their name on Elections Ontario's voters list.

"Elections Ontario has made the process for electors to update their name easier when launching its e-registration tool in the fall of 2017," wrote spokesperson Cara Des Granges.

Electors were encouraged to confirm, update or add their information on the voters list before May 29, 2018,"

Her statement ended with the added note that people still can update their information on the Elections Ontario website.

It also concluded by noting that Elections Ontario no longer collects gender-based information.

'Work on this.'

The way Escobar sees it, to go through the rigmarole of legally changing his name , filing paperwork, faxing it, waiting for new cards etc — only to have his old name show up on what he understood as his ticket to vote, was a let down.

And when party canvassers knocked on his door and addressed him as "Morena Cecilia," it just added insult to injury.

"I don't feel it's a personal thing,' he said.  "I know it's logistical problem. I do want them to work on this."

He says he'd like to see a process that blanket-applies legal name and gender changes across government services.  

But in the meantime he's more concerned, especially in the fleeting days leading up to voting day that people reading this know the ways they can vote, what ID is needed and what isn't.

All of which can be found at ElectionsOntario.on.ca