Voter suppression is alive and well, and a case in Alabama’s Black Belt proves it.
When the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced the closure of 31 driver's license offices in 2015, a journalist in the state showed that the state’s “Black Belt”— the region of Alabama that takes its name first from the color of its soil as well as for the high concentration of (economically depressed) African Americans who live there—was especially hard hit.
In fact, Alabama.com reports that of the 10 counties with the highest proportion of black folk, the state closed driver's license offices in eight. Journalist Kyle Whitmire reports that the closures came on the heels of Alabama’s requiring photo IDs at the polls, a change the state enacted immediately after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013.
This is significant because DMV offices are where most folks can get the most common form of photo ID.
Alabama.com reports that the closures saved the state very little in revenue, reportedly between $200,000 and $300,000, but the “routine shortfalls in the General Fund budget typically range from $100 million to $200 million,” giving new meaning to a drop in the bucket.
After being sued by the NAACP last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation investigated and found “that African Americans residing in the Black Belt region of Alabama disproportionately underserved by ALEA’s driver licensing services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race.”
Under an agreement struck between the state and federal agencies, ALEA agreed to reopen and add more hours of service to the Black Belt offices.
Many believe this is just one of many acts of suppression that blacks in Southern states will continue to face moving forward, especially in light of the new administration and possibly a more conservative Supreme Court.
Read more at Alabama.com.