The state of Alabama announced that it will no longer be issuing drivers licenses in predominately African American counties. This is extremely problematic because Alabama now requires a photo ID to vote. By making it impossible to receive a driver’s license in counties where 75% of registered voters are black, they eliminate the black vote in one of the most blatant efforts to disenfranchise minority voters that our nation has ever seen.
The state passed the voter ID restriction, which demands a voter present a picture ID prior to voting, a full year ago. This was a controversial enough measure, as not everyone has an ID and getting an ID requires money and time that many people don’t have. Now, the overt repression of the black vote has reached a new apex. Getting a license from a nearby DMV is not an option. As a result of budget cuts, thirty-one satellite DMVs offices “no longer have access to driver’s licenses examiners.” This means residents will have to travel to other, faraway white counties to apply for licenses.
This raises civil liberties issues on all ends, as driving in Alabama is an absolute necessity. If people are forced to go far to get their license, the state is preventing their African American population from engaging in their most basic rights; easily acquiring a driver’s license and of course—voting. The fact that offices closed in only two white neighborhoods goes to show how strongly the racial prejudice is written into this.
John Archibald, of AL.com, suggested the US Department of Justice open an investigation into the closures. “Alabama just took a giant step backward,” wrote Archibald. “Take a look at the ten 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. Every single county in which blacks make up more than seventy-five percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one,” he continued. “It is an affront to the very notion of justice in a nation where one man one vote is as precious as oxygen,” he insisted. “It is a slap in the face to all who believe the stuff we teach the kids about how all are created equal.”
The racially targeted closures of the DMVs tells the state’s African American population that their opinion is not wanted, their vote should not be counted, they are regulated to the margins yet again. The people in these counties do vote, which is what makes this an even more vicious measure. The state, and the Republicans have waged a premeditated attack on the 15th amendment. The federal government and anyone who believes in civil rights, should stand up to this and say, no. We will not sit idly by as the state undermines justice and upholds disenfranchisement. We will not allow Alabama to backhandedly revoke our minorities right to vote.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.