Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Democratic officials in Alabama in criticizing a decision by state officials to shutter 31 satellite driver’s-license offices, mostly in areas heavily populated by African Americans, a move that could make it harder for those residents to get photo IDs needed to vote. Alabama’s voter-identification law went into effect last year, requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. A state-issued driver’s license is the most popular form of identification, and critics say the closure of offices that issue them is yet another barrier for poor and minority voters. “It’s a blast from the Jim Crow past,” Clinton said in a statement Friday criticizing the move and calling on state officials to reverse the decision. The head of the Alabama Democratic Party said she is in touch with voting rights advocates about asking the Justice Department to look into the closures.
The issue of voting rights, particularly alarm at new laws requiring voters to present photo IDs, was a major issue in the 2012 election. Political activists and voting rights advocates used the threat of voter suppression to boost turnout among minority voters, who showed up in record numbers to help guarantee President Obama’s reelection.
Clinton and her main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have both spoken forcefully against laws and practices that they say make it harder for young people and minorities to vote.
Officials at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency say the closures were necessary after deep cuts to the agency’s budget. The driver’s-license offices in question were operated on a part-time basis and, according to a news release, accounted for less than 5 percent of the 1.2 million driver’s licenses that Alabama issues each year. Earlier this year, the agency increased the fee for renewing a driver’s license from $23.50 to $36.25.