"Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare." Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts writing in a 2013 decision which gutted the Voter Rights Act
I am furious! After yelling "voter fraud" for years in their effort to suppress the black vote along with other reliable Democratic constituencies, Republicans in Alabama have shed all pretense in their efforts to curtail the turnout of blacks in the next election. How, one asks? After passing a law in 2014 requiring citizens to have a photo identification in order to vote, Alabama is now closing 31 driving license offices that are almost exclusively located in African-American communities.
As John Archibald writes in AL.com: "Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one." In fact, all five counties that voted most heavily Democratic in the last presidential election year will see their driving license offices closed and of the ten counties that voted most solidly for Obama, eight had their offices closed.
Appalling! After screaming at the top of their lungs for years about the need for passage of restrictive voting ID laws that were ostensibly designed to end the mythical practice of voting fraud, the wizard behind the curtain has been revealed and the motivation is not only racist, but anti-democratic, as well.
A party that is trying to restrict the vote instead of expanding it is a dying political party and that just may be the fate of the modern Republican party as they steer farther and farther to the right so much so that even establishment Republicans, like New York Times columnist David Brooks, are giving up on them as a party of anti-government nihilism. It is insulting not only to the black community, but should be to all Americans who value the voting franchise, which is at the heart of our democracy.
"According to the Alabama secretary of state, about 500,000 state residents in 2014 didn't have a photo ID (that's 20 percent of those registered to vote). The law disproportionately affects poor people who would find it the most difficult to get a photo ID (Alabama helpfully raised the fee more than 50 percent for getting a driver's license) and, in particular African-Americans, who voted in fewer numbers in 2014 in places where voter ID laws went into effect. In Alabama in 2014, the state had the lowest turnout in an election since 1986. Now Alabama is closing offices where state residents can get a license with a photo ID and doing it almost exclusively in places where black people live."
Of course, Alabama state officials cloak the real reasons for the closings of the State Department of Motor Vehicle offices in the language of fiscal responsibility. They should be ashamed! According to Zachary Roth writing in MSNBS.com:
"Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has insisted the closings won't affect people's ability to get a voter ID. He said Board of Registrars offices, which are still in every county, will be available to issue the special non-drivers voter ID cards that the state created when it passed the law. And he has said the state's mobile ID-issuing office will have made it to every county in the state by the end of the month."
But, of course, like so many assertions made by Republicans, this one is preposterous! The mobile sites have issued just 29 of the special ID's since the beginning of the year, according to a spokesman for the Secretary of State. Only 1,422 of the ID's have been issued through any means during this time frame. According to Merrill: "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." In other words, in Republican-speak he means their subterfuge is working! Again, shameless!
Merrill also hypocritically stated: "I feel good about the kind of progress that we're making and I don't hear a hue and cry from our local officials about us not being able to meet the needs of all of our voters throughout the entire state," I say, at some point in time, you've got to forgive people."
However, local state officials are protesting. State Representative Darrio Melton, a Democrat based in Selma, said "It's a lot more than voting. IDs impact lives. You need ID in an encounter with law enforcement even if you're not driving."
In response, Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell, a Democrat, has formally asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. According to MSNBC.com: "These closures will potentially disenfranchise Alabama's poor, elderly, disabled, and black communities," wrote Rep. Sewell in a letter sent Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "To restrict the ability of any citizen to vote is an assault on the rights of all Americans to equally participate in the electoral process."
Alabama is the state where Sheriff Bull Connor used fire hoses and set the dogs loose on civil rights workers peacefully assembling. It is the state where Governor George Wallace proudly proclaimed in an inaugural address: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" The state has an ugly and shameful past, indeed!
People have died fighting for the right to vote in this country. Letting Alabama disenfranchise black voters now would be to dishonor their memory and the legacy of the civil right's movement. It is modern day Jim Crow. Hopefully, the Justice Department will have the last word. We can not be as complacent as Alabama officials think we are and live in good conscience.