Alabama DMV closings: ‘It’s not just a civil rights violation’

Katie Miller
Staff Writer

Recently, Alabama legislature passed emergency budget cuts that required the closings of five state parks as well as 28 counties’ Department of Motor Vehicle offices.
This poses a potential problem because, as of last year, Alabama requires photo identification to vote.

According to al.com, around 250,000 registered voters in Alabama do not have the correct type of identification for the voting ballots.

Twenty-eight counties are left without the ability to obtain a driver’s license, the most common form of photo identification.

Of the 28 counties, half are in the “Black Belt” of Alabama. Rachel Maddow, a television host and political commentator for MSNBC, defines this as “the area in which black people tend to outnumber the white people.”

“In political terms, it ends up being where Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters,” Maddow said.

Maddow said that President Barack Obama posted his biggest wins in Alabama in 10 counties. Of those 10, eight counties have closed the doors to their driver’s license offices.

Did the Alabama legislature intentionally make it almost impossible for a wide majority of black voters to vote in the upcoming election? Since Alabama is typically a Republican state, it seems to be a direct attack against the majority of Democratic voters within the state.

“This has nothing to do with race,” Gov. Robert Bentley said in response to the negative reaction. “This has to do with the fact that the legislature failed to do their job adequately and (to) fund the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.”

State officials also point out that the closings take place in areas that are not as highly populated as others. Bentley is among these officials who said it is “a rural issue.”

“It’s not just a civil rights violation,” said John Archibald, a columnist for AL.com. “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.”

Sharrnique McEachern, a junior broadcast journalism major from Queens, New York, said she does not believe Gov. Bentley’s reasoning for removing DMV service.

“I don’t believe what Bentley said at all,” McEachern said. “It’s not a coincidence at all that it’s in the Black Belt. I don’t get why that’s targeted specifically.”

“The DMV office is important because I don’t have my license; I have a permit,” McEachern said, relating to the counties’ current situation.

Not having her license means that McEachern does not possess the most common form of identification required to vote in Alabama. If she did not have a license with her or another form of acceptable photo identification, she could not vote.

“The legislature is taking away their right to vote, and that’s wrong — very wrong,” she said.

I really wish I could believe that the Alabama legislature was solely doing its job and that there was no other option for making budget cuts, but having faith in the men and women who run this state is a tall order for me.

No matter the reason for the closings, Alabama opposed progress in an enormous way and denied the right of every citizen to vote. Even if the primary reason for the closing of DMV offices was due to rural influence, I believe race and political views were a factor in our state government’s decision.

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