By Marc Morial
President & CEO, National Urban League
In what appears to be a case of racially motivated voter suppression, strict Voter ID state Alabama is shuttering driversâ€™ license bureaus in eight of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of registered voters of color.
Historically, those who lack a photo ID overwhelmingly tend to be people of color, poor, elderly or students. In Alabama, about a quarter million people donâ€™t have drivers licenses or an acceptable form of identification. Now it will be impossible to obtain one of those forms of ID in 28 of the stateâ€™s 67 counties.
A total of 31 bureaus were closed â€“ including those in every county where 75% of the registered voters are people of color. A majority of African-Americans in Alabama, 62 percent, rely on public transportation â€“ twice the percentage of white Alabamans who do.
The Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act, clearing the way for this kind of egregious voter suppression, originated in Shelby County, Alabama. Alabama was one of nine states previously covered by Section 5, requiring the Justice Department to approve any changes to voting law.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced in Congress in June, would restore federal approval to changes in voting laws in states that have had 15 or more voting rights violations in the last 25 years. Alabama is one of the 13 states that would be affected.
The very idea of democracy is mocked by Alabamaâ€™s tactics. Congress must take quick action on the Voting Rights Amendment Act. Unless the right to vote is equally protected among all citizens, we cannot call ourselves a free society.