The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s website says their office at the Clarke County Courthouse is still open, but soon a lot of others nearby won’t be. On Wednesday, the agency announced that it would close 31 offices throughout the state, leaving 29 counties without a place where 16-year-olds can take a driver’s test, whether they pass on the first try or not.
That’s an inconvenience.
But there’s something bigger happening here.
In 2011, Alabama lawmakers approved the state’s voter ID law, making it illegal to vote in Alabama without a government-issued photo ID.
For most folks, that’s a driver’s license.
In those 29 counties you might be able to register at the courthouse, but you won’t be able to cast a ballot there unless you have that ID.
That’s not just an inconvenience. That’s a problem.
But it gets worse.
Look at the list of counties now where you can’t get a driver’s license. There’s Choctaw, Sumter, Hale, Greene, Perry, Wilcox, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, Macon, Bullock …
If you had to memorize all the Alabama Counties in 9th grade, like I did — and even if you forgot most of them, like I have — you can probably guess where we’re going with this.
Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.
Counties where some of the state’s poorest live.
Counties that are majority African-American.
Combine that with the federally mandated Star ID taking effect next year, and we’re looking at a nightmare.