Ala. Closes 31 DMVs in State Despite Voter ID Law

“I’m obviously quite concerned about Alabama’s decision to balance the budgets on the backs of my people.” – Rep. Terry Sewill

Discriminatory laws against marginalized communities are nothing new in America. It doesn’t matter if such laws mean to put people who are already at a societal disadvantage at well, an even more pressing position of disadvantage, the result is still the same.

This week’s example of lawmakers making decisions that severely impact people of color hails from Alabama. Lawmakers recently arrived at the conclusion that closing 31 of the state’s driver’s license offices was the best way to save money.

A lot of the districts affected have a significant Black population–many of which are already suffering from the state’s tough voter ID requirement.

Eight of Rep. Terry Sewill’s fifteen districts will be affected by the DMV closings. She says the decision just doesn’t add up.

“The most popular identification is obviously the driver’s license,” Sewill said. “The last time I checked, driver’s licenses were a source of revenue, right? I mean you pay for a driver’s license. I just think it’s a very ill-conceived decision and it’s really unconscionable in light of Alabama’s voter ID law.”

She’s right. It doesn’t make sense.

To further limit people’s access to vote is beyond unfair. It’s absurd.

In a press release, the Congressional Black Caucus referred to the decision as “particularly troubling considering that many of the shuttered offices are located in rural areas and counties where more than 75 percent of the registered voters are African American.”

Lawmakers provided few details into how the decision was made, specifically, how the districts were selected for demolition. Every single county where Blacks make up more than three-fourths of registered voters will see their DMV closed.

Every one.

The burning question on many of our minds is what can be done?

“I’m really calling upon state lawmakers to take a second look at this,” Sewill said. “I’m questioning the legitimacy of a judgement that would cause people who are already economically disadvantaged to be more vulnerable.”

Sewill, who is currently drafting a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch in hopes of repealing the decision, came up with a modern-day version of the Voting Rights Act in hopes of putting an end to the discrimination.

“If the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was in full effect today, then it’s clear to me that a decision like this would’ve had to go to the Justice Department,” Sewill said. “So this decision illuminates the very reason why we must restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and why my bill, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 is the right vehicle by which Congress should be coming up with a modern-day formula to put the piece back into the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

The “piece” that Sewill is referring to is Shelby County v. Holder, a landmark ruling that requires states to obtain federal preclearance before implementing changes to their voting laws.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the march for civil rights in Selma. With laws like this, you can’t help but to wonder if America has progressed or regressed when it comes to equality and justice for all.

Check back for updates.