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Election Workers Get Tips to Ensure All Voters Feel Welcome

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Only first-time voters who registered by mail and did not already verify their eligibility are required to confirm their identity at the polling place with documentation. (FutUndBeidl/Flickr)
Only first-time voters who registered by mail and did not already verify their eligibility are required to confirm their identity at the polling place with documentation. (FutUndBeidl/Flickr)
November 2, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska groups have published an educational guide for the state's poll workers, part of an effort to make poll sites more welcoming for gender non-conforming, non-binary and transgender voters.

Abbi Swatsworth, executive director for OutNebraska said these constituents historically have been under-represented at the ballot box, and the goal is to break down barriers and make voting more accessible to all Nebraskans, regardless of how they identify or express their gender.

"By educating poll workers, we're just making sure that every eligible registered voter can exercise their right to vote," Swatsworth explained.

The guide encourages poll workers to make small adjustments, such as avoiding saying sir or ma'am when addressing voters.

And if you're not sure about a person's gender identity or the name shown on their documents does not appear to match the person's gender presentation, it's OK to ask: 'What name would you like me to use,' or 'What are your pronouns?'

Swatsworth noted the stakes for keeping poll sites safe are significant.

According to the FBI's most recent report, anti-transgender hate crimes in the U.S. increased by nearly 34% in 2018.

The guide stresses poll workers should never "out" people by revealing their gender identity to others.

"And in order to keep them safe physically, free from harm or harassment, it's just best that that information be kept private," Swatsworth urged.

The guide also asks poll workers to avoid asking trans, non-conforming or non-binary voters what their "real name" is, and to never inquire about surgeries or other intimate details.

Swatsworth said frontline election workers are uniquely positioned to make sure everyone feels welcome as they practice their fundamental right to vote.

"I think Nebraskans are respectful by nature," Swatsworth concluded. "It's just about basic human dignity, and everyone wants to be treated respectfully. This is an easy way to be respectful."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE