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Planned DMV closures in Alabama adds urgency to push to restore the Voting Rights Act

This week the state of Alabama, which requires a photo ID to vote, announced that it would be closing driver’s license offices in 31 locations.

The counties where the offices are to be closed are predominantly black and poor. Although the Secretary of State has said that the offices of the county boards of registrars and a “mobile voter ID van” can service the population, there can be no argument that these closures are yet another barrier to those seeking to exercise their right to vote. 

Following the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted a key section of the Voting Rights Act, we wrote

While 40 percent of the white voting public cast their ballots for a black president nationwide, only 15 percent of white voters did so in Alabama. And as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, there are still Alabama legislators who talk openly about suppressing the black vote and refer to black voters as “aborigines.” Freed by the Supreme Court from the protections for minority voters that Congress envisioned, one can only imagine what these kinds of legislators will think of next.

The closure of these important driver’s license offices is exactly what the state thought of next. Alabama can only be this cavalier because we no longer have the strong protections of the VRA—and that’s why we urgently need to restore it.