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Oct
2015
2

Alabama Just Closed Driver’s License Offices in Every County with a 75% Black Population

AL Voter ID

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Obscured by woefully incomplete headline is the fact that the state of Alabama has decided to stop issuing driver’s licenses in every county where African-Americans make up 75 percent of the population. 

It’s ok. We’ll give you a second to fetch your barf bag.

The preposterous move follows changes to state law that linked the right to vote with possession of a valid driver’s license.  And due to budget blunders, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) will close 31 satellite offices.  In a heated piece for AL.com, writer John Archibald exploded over the outcome:

Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters. That’s Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes, Bullock, Perry, Wilcox, Dallas, Hale, and Montgomery, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. Alabama, thanks to its budgetary insanity and inanity, just opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them. All but Dallas and Montgomery will be closed.

Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting.

The official party spin was laid out by Law Enforcement Secretary, Spencer Collier, who explained that ALEA’s general fund appropriation was reduced from $56 million to $45 million.  He added that the driver’s license division handles 1.2 million licenses a year and is currently understaffed with 103 vacant positions.  Archibald finds it difficult to accept ‘coincidence’ as the reason so many largely black counties would bear the brunt of the cuts:

It’s not just a civil rights violation. It is not just a public relations nightmare. It is not just an invitation for worldwide scorn and an alarm bell to the Justice Department. It is an affront to the very notion of justice in a nation where one man one vote is as precious as oxygen. It is a slap in the face to all who believe the stuff we teach the kids about how all are created equal.

Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.

But maybe it’s not racial at all, right? Maybe it’s just political. And let’s face it, it may not be either.

But no matter the intent, the consequence is the same.

Look at the 15 counties that voted for President Barack Obama in the last presidential election. The state just decided to close driver license offices in 53 percent of them.
Look at the five counties that voted most solidly Democratic? Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes and Bullock counties all had their driver license offices closed.
Look at the 10 that voted most solidly for Obama? Of those, eight – again all but Dallas and the state capital of Montgomery – had their offices closed.

Closed.

In short, Alabama couldn’t find a way to pay for its government and used the blunder as an opportunity to disenfranchise black citizens.  It’s equal parts inept, shameful, and disheartening.

Alabama ignored evidence that Voter ID would disproportionately affect the black community.  During the legal challenge to the law the ACLU explained that 62 percent of black Alabama residents relied on public transportation, compared to 34 percent of white residents.  To boot, ALEA raised the fee for driver’s license renewal from $23.50 to $36.25, which many considered a ‘poll tax.’

The hits keep coming, and Archibald sums it up plainly:

The harm is inflicted disproportionately on voters who happen to be black, and poor, in sparsely populated areas.
So roll out the welcome wagon to the Justice Department, and tell the world what it already so desperately wants to hear.
That Alabama is exactly what they always thought she was.

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