It seems as though the state of Alabama has taken a huge step backwards, opting to close drivers license bureaus in 8 of the 10 counties with the highest African American populations. In these 8 counties, African-American people make up more than 75% of the population. The state cites budgetary concerns for the reason behind the closure.
In a state where government issued photo ID such as a driver’s license is required to vote, and with an election looming in the near future, the timing couldn’t be worse. Many are angered by the act, saying that it is a clear violation of civil rights.
In 2011, the Alabama Legislature made the decision that all voters would be required to present photo ID in order to vote. Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill into law and it went into effect last year. At the time, there were widespread complaints that such a move would disenfranchise African-American voters.
The complaints are surfacing once again as 31 driver’s license offices were closed across the state. While cuts were made all across the state, it is obvious that most cuts occurred in an area referred to as the Black Belt. This is the part of the state where the majority of the population is low-income, African American families. As coincidence may have it, this particular area of the state voted for Obama and the Democratic party in last elections.
Intentional or not, it seems as though the Alabama Legislature is taking steps to complicate the voting process for African American voters. The identification required in order to vote has just become that much harder for voters in certain counties to obtain. In general, this complication seems to have a significant impact on the low-income, African American population. Alienating and disenfranchising such an important population can have a significant impact when it comes to the polls come the election date.
Money may be a valid concern in this situation, but, in the opinion of many, it does not justify complicating the right to vote for a significant portion of the state’s population.