Sewell dounces driving license office closures

Published 1:08 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Congresswoman Terri Sewell recently denounced the decision by Alabama officials to close 31 driving license offices across the state, including Hayneville.
According to Sewell, the closures disproportionally impact residents in the 7th Congressional District, which includes Lowndes County.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) announced on Wednesday, Sept. 30, that an $11 million cut in the new general fund appropriation to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) force the elimination of travel to 31 part-time, non-state owned, satellite locations including those in Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes County.
The ALEA announced effective Sept. 30 that traveling driver license examiners will be reallocated to staff district driver license offices full-time.
Among satellite locations listed as no longer in service are Butler County (Greenville), Crenshaw County (Luverne) and Lowndes County ( Hayneville).
According to Sergeant Steve Jarrett of the ALEA, 662 transactions were conducted in the Hayneville office during the 2014 calendar year
“The voices of our most vulnerable citizens have been further silenced by the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” Sewell said in a press release on Thursday, Oct. 1. “Under Alabama’s voter ID law, only a handful of photo identification can be used at polling places, and the state-issued driver’s license is the most popular form of identification presented. To limit access to obtaining a driver’s license — while insisting on a photo ID to vote — is an unconscionable and overt barrier to voting.”
She said, “Twenty-nine counties in Alabama will have no driver’s license offices, of which 15 of those counties are located in the rural parts of the Black Belt. This fact means many of my constituents who have limited modes of transportation will be denied an equal opportunity to obtain a means to vote. To restrict the ability of any Alabamian to vote is an assault on the rights of all Alabamians to equally participate in the electoral process.”
She continued, “When the State of Alabama started requiring a photo ID to vote in 2014, officials claimed it would reduce voter fraud. The reality is that voter fraud is rare, and the net result of the Alabama photo ID law has been to restrict equal access to ballot box for low-income, senior and disabled citizens.”
Sewell said, “The closure decision combined with the voter ID law is eerily reminiscent of past, discriminatory practices such as poll taxes and literacy tests that restricted the black vote. I seriously question the judgement behind the closing driver’s license offices in the most vulnerable communities. The State of Alabama should either rescind its requirement for voter IDs at the polling place or allow these offices to stay open. I am calling on Alabama lawmakers to reverse this ill-conceived decision and to rescind the voter ID law. As elected officials, we should be encouraging citizens to vote, not creating barriers that limit access to the ballot box. We should restore the vote, rather than restrict it.”

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