Alabama state officials’ decision to close 31 driver’s license offices in what is known as the “Black Belt” has raised the eyebrows of many, with some calling it an attempt to suppress the African-American vote through limiting access to state IDs and enforcing the state’s voter ID laws.
State officials are calling the decision to close the DMVs a cost-cutting measure – not a Republican plot to suppress the Black vote in areas where African-Americans have strongly supported President Barack Obama.
According to AI.com, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has “strongly pushed back” against the claims that “a decision to close 31 driver’s licenses offices across the state is aimed at making it more difficult for black Alabamians to vote.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) joined Roland Martin Tuesday on NewsOne Now to discuss the state’s move to close driver’s license offices and the implications this form of voter suppression may have on future elections.
Rep. Sewell told Martin, “I think that it is appalling that the state legislators in the State of Alabama are trying to ‘balance the budget’ on the backs of those who can least afford to have that cost.”
In Sewell’s district, eight out of the fourteen counties she represents “will no longer have DMV offices” as a result of the cost-cutting measures.
“To have a pernicious law that requires a photo ID in order to vote just means that this is a further example of disenfranchisement of African-Americans. Of all of the offices that are being closed, eight out of the ten counties with the highest percentage of African-American voters will have their offices closed … and we know that is the most popular form of photo ID,” said Sewell.
According to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website:
“To assist voters in obtaining identification for voting, the Secretary of State’s office has dispatched a mobile unit to 56 of the 67 counties in Alabama at least once since Secretary Merrill took office in January of this year.”
Congresswoman Sewell said despite these locations being set up around the 67 counties in Alabama, “alternatives don’t matter if they’re not readily accessible or easily obtained.”
She added, “The Board of Registrars existed in the last election — and as well as these mobile vans that came around at odd hours — was ill publicized and so, so many of my constituents complained that these varied forms weren’t readily accessible at all for them.
“For me, I think it’s really pernicious for us to say that you’re giving these alternatives in poor underserved communities that don’t have access to broadband, and in many cases don’t have home computers, so what’s the point of having online registration for driver’s license or renewal of driver’s license? What’s the point of having these vans that come around once a year if they’re not accessible?”
Sewell later said these measures being instituted by the Alabama legislator “does not pass the smell test” and she is asking Attorney General Loretta Lynch to get involved in investigating these apparent voter suppression tactics.
Watch Roland Martin and Congresswoman Terri Sewell discuss Alabama’s decision to close DMVs in the state and the implications this move may have on upcoming elections in the video clip above.
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