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Wed May 15, 2019, 10:45 AM

The time to get in Alabama's face was years ago

It's good that people are mobilizing now, but where's everyone been? Alabama has been laying the groundwork for this for years with little pushback from white people outside of the state.

For example, in 2015, the state announced it was closing or substantially reducing service hours for 30+ driver license offices. Lo and behold! Those all just HAPPENED to be in Alabama's "Black Belt," predominantly black counties where voters had voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama.

Why did that matter? Well, not only is the ability to obtain a driver license absolutely critical to obtaining and keeping a job, getting to school, health services, etc. (especially in these mostly rural areas with little reliable public transportation), Alabama had just past a very strict voter ID law that required people to have state-issued IDs that were issued by the state DMVs at their driver license offices. No state ID, no vote. And if you can't get to the driver license office because it's too far away one or two or three counties away, it's difficult and expensive and perhaps impossible to get the ID you need to vote in upcoming elections.

So, it was obvious that this was part of an effort to substantially curtail the black vote. But where was the outcry? While there was some national coverage and Hillary Clinton drew attention to it, there was hardly a peep of protest from people outside of Alabama.

Fortunately, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation were paying attention. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx used his authority under Title VI to order an investigation into the closures and when that investigation proved that Alabama's actions indeed violated Title VI (the section of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in the use of federal funds - and the Alabama DMVs received some federal money), the Department ordered the state to reopen the facilities or risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transportation dollars. The state complied and reopened the offices and expanded the hours.

But a lot of damage had already been done. Countless black Alabama residents were unable to get their driver licenses during that time and this surely resulted in significant suppression of the black vote in 2016. And, even though people rose up and voted in record numbers in the special election in 2017 - thanks to the high profile Senate race - the turnout would have been even higher had it not been for the state-imposed voter suppression that few people outside of the state bothered to pay attention to.

And it's only going to get worse. Because while Obama's Transportation Department vigorously enforced this agreement, in particular, and Title VI more broadly and kept a close watch on Alabama after that, it's unlikely that any of this is being enforced under Trump's administration. (Another example of how elections have consequences).

Alabama has been suppressing the black vote for years but white voters just haven't felt the need to go out of their way to fight back on their behalf. Now this voter suppression is coming back to bite white voters, especially white women, as the people (mostly white men) who the disappeared black voters would have helped defeat have turned their sights on the rights of women of all races.

I can only ask when I hear the too-late outcry: Where were you when black voters were being pushed out? And will you now, at long last, join the fight against voter suppression now that you see (or should see) that, even though voter suppression doesn't affect YOUR right to vote, it is putting your health, lives, rights and future at risk?

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Reply The time to get in Alabama's face was years ago (Original post)
StarfishSaver May 15 OP
EffieBlack May 15 #1
EffieBlack May 15 #2
stopdiggin May 15 #3
WhiskeyGrinder May 15 #4
sop May 15 #5
StarfishSaver May 15 #6

Response to StarfishSaver (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2019, 10:54 AM

1. I remember this

You're dead spot on.

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Response to StarfishSaver (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2019, 01:24 PM

2. Kicking

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Response to StarfishSaver (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2019, 03:56 PM

3. wish I could do more

Nice piece. Totally agree. Disenfranchise and voter suppression have been a favorite (and ugly) tactic for some time now. And Democrats are and HAVE been speaking out on it. This is the "new Jim Crow" and that's exactly what our candidates are saying. Sadly, any realistic redress or relief for this nasty undemocratic trend looks to come primarily from the state level. Those of us that don't vote in AL (or other afflicted areas) don't really have a lot of cards to play. I'm afraid even a vigilant executive and a sympathetic (?) judiciary can only provide a modest amount of correction. The courts in particular have been very reluctant to wade into political waters. And given where we are at now, I doubt that will change anytime soon. In the end, it seems the voters of AL must (somehow) gain control of their statehouse .. where these awful legislative schemes are enacted. That is the only realistic solution.

I don't say this unfeelingly. I DO think what what is occurring is undemocratic, and in some ways criminal. Voter suppression SHOULD be a source of public shame. But the only power I have here (beyond that of the pen) are the names that I check off on MY ballot come election time. And, sadly, that ain't changing much in AL.

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Response to StarfishSaver (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2019, 03:59 PM

4. K&R. When middle-class white women feel like policies are attacking them, you can be sure that

those policies were hurting more marginalized people long before that moment.

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Response to StarfishSaver (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2019, 04:21 PM

5. Reminds me of the Martin Niemller poem, "First They Came..."

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

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Response to StarfishSaver (Original post)

Wed May 15, 2019, 04:32 PM

6. Great Washington Post editorial about the driver license investigation in Alabama

In Alabama, federal intervention protects minority rights

Washington Post, January 7, 2017

A LITTLE OVER a year ago, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced he would close dozens of driverís license offices ó many in poor and minority areas ó ostensibly to save money. Nearly all of Alabamaís majority African American counties were to be hit. This rightly prompted a national outcry. Alabama is one of the states that unnecessarily requires people to present picture IDs to vote. Making it harder for people in minority communities to get driverís licenses only enhanced the potential suppressive impact on minority voter turnout.

After Mr. Bentley hastily announced a partial and inadequate reversal, the story did not get much subsequent national news coverage. Luckily, the federal government did not forget. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced recently it had struck an agreement with Alabama officials to expand the hours that driverís license services will be available across the state. The agency found that the license office closures hit African American residents harder than others, running afoul of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination in state programs that take federal money.

Although Alabama did not concur with this assessment, it nevertheless agreed to ramp up driverís license services, sharply increasing the hours officials will be available to process license applications in various parts of the state. Some offices that were open only once a month will now see people two or three times a month ó still not much, but an improvement for working people who may not have flexible schedules.
...
Just as states can and should push back against federal overreach, careful and conscientious enforcement of federal law is necessary to protect Americans when their state governments betray its letter and spirit. This is an essential element of American federalism that has safeguarded people, particularly minorities, from abuse.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-alabama-federal-intervention-protects-minority-rights/2017/01/07/7286ce48-d217-11e6-a783-cd3fa950f2fd_story.html?utm_term=.1d673cd113a6


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