Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) called the outcry over the state’s mass closure of DMV offices after passing a photo voter ID law “race politics at its worst,” in remarks to state Republican leaders in a closed-door meeting last week.
A recording of the Oct. 7 meeting was obtained by AL.com. In it, Bentley discussed with 17 members of the state GOP Steering Committee the Alabama budget woes that had prompted the closures and dismissed the concerns it would make harder for residents — especially African-Americans in the rural regions particularly hard hit by the closures — to vote.
Per Al.com’s description of the recording:
“They are wrong on this issue,” said Bentley. “Everyone can get a license and everyone can get a voter ID. They (critics) really don’t have anything to talk about. It’s politics at its worst. And it’s race politics at its worst.”
Bentley told the group that he had worked hard to help change the image of the state.
“Alabama is not George Wallace’s state. I don’t want it to be George Wallace’s state.” said Bentley. “I want us to be inclusive. I don’t want us to look at the color of people’s skin. I don’t want us to look at whether they are male or female. We are all Alabamians and I’m their governor. I know most of them (blacks in the affected counties losing driver’s license offices) are not going to vote Republican. But you are not going to win people over by not being inclusive.”
In the recording, Bentley also suggested revenues would needed to be raised to ward off the budget issues the state was facing.
The closures were announced late last month after a budget fight between the governor and the GOP-controlled legislature, leaving more than two dozen Alabama counties without a driver’s licenses office. Critics argued that the closures will make it harder for minorities to obtain the kinds of photo IDs required to vote in the state, as the closures disproportionately impacted counties with a high percentage of African Americans, many in the state’s “Black Belt.” The state has insisted that voters will still be able to obtain IDs acceptable for voting through Alabama’s free ID program, but so far that program has issued far fewer IDs than the 250,000 residents estimated not to have the proper identification for voting.