Facing a state budget reduction, Alabama’s Law Enforcement Agency opted to cut driver-licensing services at 31 satellite offices, serving 28 counties. Twelve to fifteen of the affected counties are in Alabama’s “black belt,” and every Alabama county where black people make up 75% or more of registered voters. That’s troubling because, since last year, Alabama has required government ID to vote.
Two different AL.com came out against the closures as a disguised form of gerrymandering, citing their disproportionate effect on black voters and voters who supported Obama in 2012.
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.
When the state passed Voter ID, Republican lawmakers argued that it was supposed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats said the law was written to disenfranchise black voters and suppress the voice of the poor.
Maybe, maybe not.
But put these two things together — Voter ID and 28 counties without a place where you can get a driver’s license — and Voter ID becomes what the Democrats always said it was.
A civil rights lawsuit isn’t a probability. It’s a certainty.
It could get worse before it gets better, though: Alabama’s Secretary of Law Enforcement, Spencer Collier, said Monday that if funding isn’t increased, the state could be forced to close all but its 4 largest driver licensing offices.