Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, launched when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a segregated bus. Ten years before her historic act of civil disobedience, Parks tried to register to vote. She was denied three times and had to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax before finally registering. Ten years after the bus boycott, Parks helped lead the historic march from Selma to Montgomery and attended the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The VRA had a dramatic impact in Alabama, increasing the number of black registered voters from 23 percent in 1965 to 69 percent by 2012. But in recent years the state has been moving backward on voting rights. Alabama passed a strict voter ID law in 2010, then challenged the constitutionality of the VRA in 2013.
After the Supreme Court gutted the VRA, the state was able to implement its voter-ID law without federal approval, and more recently attempted to close 31 DMV offices in the state—many in majority-black counties—where voters sought to obtain the newly required ID. (Amid public outcry, Alabama said it would keep the offices open one day a month.)
Today civil-rights groups—led by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on behalf of the Alabama NAACP—filed suit against the state’s voter-ID law, arguing that it violates Section 2 of the VRA. The complaint alleges that the law will disenfranchise 280,000 registered voters without government-issued ID but there has been only 1 case of voter impersonation in Alabama out of 22.4 million votes cast since 2000 to justify the measure. Despite the large number of people without voter ID, the state has issued only 6,736 voter ID cards in the last two years.