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Sun Oct 18, 2015, 01:24 PM

Alabama license office closures alarms voting rights advocates ahead of 2016

From: The Guardian, Matthew Teague

Governor says office closures are cost-cutting measures but opponents say they are an effort toward disenfranchisement that harkens back to state’s painful past. A series of recent government maneuvers in Alabama may prevent some citizens from voting across large swathes of the state, particularly in poverty-stricken Black Belt counties.

The first of the moves happened a year ago, when Alabama enacted a law requiring voters to present government-issued identification at the polls. The second happened two weeks ago, when the state shut down dozens of driver’s license-issuing offices, leaving 28 counties with no means of issuing the most common form of ID.

The Republican governor, Robert Bentley, says the office closures are a cost-cutting measure. Opponents say they are an effort toward disenfranchisement that harkens back to Alabama’s painful past. A half-century ago, Bloody Sunday in Selma led to the Voting Rights Act, removing obstacles for black voters.

Both sides could be right.

In Alabama’s early history, its agricultural heart became known as the Black Belt because of its dark, rich soil. Now it’s often called that because of the color of its residents’ skin. That was never the intended meaning of the term – but in reality slaves were concentrated in those counties directly because of that same soil.

Likewise, Alabama’s officials may not now conspire to isolate the state’s black citizens – but they make up the vast majority in the affected, impoverished counties.

Much more at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/17/alabama-voting-voter-id-driving-license

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