(Washington, DC) – After three weeks of pressure on Alabama Governor Robert Bentley over his announced closing of 31 driver’s license offices that issue the most common form of photo IDs needed to vote under Alabama law, the Governor has offered a partial bargain, saying the offices will stay open one day a month. Earlier in October, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) informed the Governor and other Alabama officials that the planned closures would significantly limit Black and other minority voters’ right to vote in Alabama in likely violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the U.S. Constitution.
“By closing these offices, the state will drastically reduce the number of sites where potential voters can obtain photo ID, creating a substantial and disproportionate burden on Black people’s ability to participate in the political process in Alabama,” states LDF’s letter.
The Governor’s partial fix is not a solution, says LDF. “Simply put, one day a month is not enough,” says Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF President and Director-Counsel. “While we welcome the Governor’s reversal on the blanket closure plan, we remain opposed to the massive restriction to driver’s license office access.”
LDF points to Alabama’s long, egregious and ongoing pattern of racial discrimination against Black voters, arguing for a full reversal on the planned closure. This latest restriction on voting rights is part of a long line of discriminatory acts that LDF has challenged in Alabama for decades. Most recently, Alabama’s implementation of strict photo voter ID rules creates unnecessary hurdles for voters. LDF wrote to the Office of the Secretary of State (links: here, here and here) about the implementation of strict photo voter ID and its disenfranchising effects.
“Combined with Alabama’s restrictive voter ID requirements for in-person and absentee voters, the ‘one day a month’ compromise is a woefully inadequate response to the needs of Alabama’s African-American voters who reside in the rural Black Belt,” says Ifill. “It’s clear that the Governor has recognized that the wholesale closures originally contemplated cannot be reconciled with the protections the Voting Rights Act affords every citizen in the state, which we set out clearly and explicitly in LDF’s letter of October 2.”
The state of Alabama plans to close 31 driver’s license-issuing office in a move that will drastically reduce the number of sites where potential voters can obtain photo ID. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF) has grave concerns about the state’s ability to serve populations seeking photo IDs for voting purposes. Access to political participation will be impacted, especially in rural counties with large Black populations, high poverty rates and little to no public transportation.
On October 2, LDF wrote to Robert Bentley, Governor of the State of Alabama, Spencer Collier, Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and John C. Merrill, Alabama Secretary of State, regarding that state’s ability to offer driver’s licenses and photo voter IDs. LDF’s concern is the impact to access to political participation.
“By closing these offices, the state will drastically reduce the number of sites where potential voters can obtain photo ID, creating a substantial and disproportionate burden on Black people’s ability to participate in the political process in Alabama,” states the letter.
“These planned closures are consistent with Alabama’s long, egregious and ongoing pattern of racial discrimination against Black voters. Given the importance of these offices as accessible locations where people can obtain the photo ID needed to vote, we urge you to keep these offices open to protect against the foreseeable negative impact of the closures on Black voters’ opportunity to participate equally in the political process in likely violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the U.S. Constitution,” writes Sherrilyn A. Ifill, LDF President and Director Counsel, who requests a meeting to discuss the planned closures.
Since its founding in 1940, LDF has been a pioneer in the struggle to secure and protect the rights of Black people and other people of color. LDF has been involved in nearly all of the precedent-setting litigation related to securing the right to vote for people of color in the State of Alabama and elsewhere.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.