NAACP-LDF: Alabama May Have Violated Voting Law With DMV Closures

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund speaks at the President's Task Force on 21 Century Policing, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Newseum in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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A top civil rights legal group, citing a likely violation of voting rights, suggested possible legal action against Alabama for its decision to close 31 of its driver’s license offices. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund has requested to meet with Alabama state officials in person to express the group’s concerns that the DMV closures will make it harder for residents — particularly African Americans in the state’s “Black Belt” — to obtain the government-issued photo IDs required to vote under Alabama law.

NAACP-LDF President Sherrilyn Ifill sent a letter Friday to Gov. Robert Bentley (R), Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Spencer Collier (R) and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R), in which she suggested a “strong likelihood” that Alabama’s actions violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. She said there was a “potential need for immediate legal action” by the group.

“By closing these offices, the State will drastically reduce the number of sites where potential voters can obtain photo ID, creating a substantial and disproportionate burden on Black people’s ability to participate in the political process in Alabama,” the letter said.

State officials have denied that the DMV closures will make it harder for Alabamans to vote, pointing to the free state-issued photo IDs residents can obtain from county officials, a mobile unit that travels the state or the state capitol.

However, the NAACP-LDF wrote that not enough has been done to bring those IDs to residents, particularly those in rural communities.

“In addition, the State strongly discourages people from even seeking out the voter ID card by notifying people that the cards can only be used for voting and forcing people who apply for the card to swear under the penalty of a felony conviction that they lack a driver’s license or any other ID,” the letter said.

In addition to meeting with state officials, the NAACP-LDF has requested the state provide a written response to “lay out the legal or factual basis (if any) for Alabama’s decision.”

Read the full letter below:

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