Alabama is one of many states with unnecessary voter ID laws, voter-suppression policies passed on the pretext of preventing virtually nonexistent forms of voter fraud. Last month, the state government made things even worse. Its new budget will make it harder to get a driver’s license in Alabama, particularly in majority-black, poor and rural areas. After an initial round of uproar, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) tried to scale back and downplay the toxic interaction between these two policies. But it is too little, too late: Unless state leaders fully reverse both, they will be guilty of eroding the fundamental principle of one person, one vote, and they will deserve condemnation. State examiners used to issue driver’s licenses in satellite offices around the state. Under the new budget, 31 of these satellite offices were slated to close. After a national outcry, Mr. Bentley partially reversed that plan, promising that state workers will travel into remote counties once a month. That’s better than never, but it is still a massive reduction in access.
Mr. Bentley argues that people will have ready access to state IDs issued in convenient locations throughout Alabama; it will just be a much bigger hassle to obtain driver’s licenses. That is also not particularly comforting.
It is a symptom of a broader problem. Alabama lawmakers passed a strapped budget this year, balanced by raiding education funding and narrowing services. That alone is distressing. Then there’s the certainty of voter confusion: Even if IDs are relatively obtainable, many people will not understand that they can still get them at their local county seats after the driver’s license pullback. Even if they do understand, many will probably not care to get an ID as much as they would a more-useful driver’s license. The upshot will be more people without proper identification and therefore rendered ineligible to vote.