2 Oct 2015

Here's How Alabama is Making it Impossible for Black People to Vote

While institutionalized racism has been a much-discussed topic since the Black Lives Matter movement put it in the national conversation, one story is going overlooked — Alabama shuttering state offices where residents can get official identification in almost exclusively black communities, while simultaneously requiring that identification to vote.
In a perfect alignment of seemingly harmless and bureaucratic changes, black voting will almost certainly be depressed throughout the state as a result of these closures. Alabama blames the closure of license issuing offices on thestate budget, which has, coincidentally, starved the state’s government of basic services for people of color and the poor.
Twenty-nine counties in Alabama will be left with no office to issues driver’s licenses. Many of these counties are in the majority-black counties in Alabama referred to as the “blackbelt.”

These changes may have once faced federal scrutiny, but since the US Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roberts overturned the pre-approval requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Alabama can make these changes with no formal review of its impact black people’s right to vote. The court’s 2013 decision cleared the way for Alabama’s voter ID law — another part of this perfect storm of seemingly race-neutral provisions that will affect black voter turnout.
“A civil rights lawsuit isn’t a probability. It’s a certainty,” wrote Kyle Whitmire for AL.com.
The double-edged sword of voter ID laws combined with closure of offices that provide voter IDs gives plenty of ammo to critics of the GOP, who say these policies are intended to suppress the minority vote. These actions also give credence to the is the claims that today’s Republican Party is out to destroy bedrock elements of American progressivism, like voting rights, public sector unionism, and state budgets originally aimed at providing services rather than providing tax breaks to the rich.
Along with other national instances of institutionalized racism, Alabama’s closure of these 29 offices appears to be another move in a long game to suppress the black vote, with clearance from the Supreme Court and cover from a purposefully-starved state government. Just as North Carolina’s Republican-led campaign on voting laws is on trial, Alabama’s may be next on the docket very soon.

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