Alabama Toughens Rules for Voting While Black

If you live in Alabama and need to register to vote before the 2016 presidential election, it just got a little harder, especially if you live in any of the counties where black Americans make up more than 75% of the registered voting population.

Because due to "budget constraints" - 31 DMV offices are losing their driver's licenses examiners.

As John Archibald wrote in a column at, of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters, 8 will lose their driver's license bureaus.

Of the 10 that voted in the highest percentages for Barack Obama, 8 of them had their offices closed.

And all five of the counties that voted most solidly democratic lost their driver license offices.

Which means that people within those majority-African American counties will need to travel to another county in order to get a driver's license, and that's a big problem for people who still need to register to vote.

Because the same Alabama Legislature that set up this voter suppression tactic also passed a bill in 2011 that requires all voters to have a photo ID.

This is almost certainly not a coincidence, it looks more like a concerted effort to suppress Black votes.

Alabama's Republican-controlled legislature is making it harder and harder for minorities and low-income people to get the type of photo ID that they will need in order to vote in the next elections.

But even if this isn't a targeted effort to suppress minority and low-income votes in the state, the end effect is that it fundamentally undermines our democracy by making it more difficult to register to vote in the counties that just lost their driver's license bureaus.

This bald-faced attempt to block minorities from voting should face a Justice Department investigation.

The simple fact is, from 1965 until 2013, this move would have triggered a federal review under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

Section 4 required states with a history of discrimination, like Alabama, to have any consequential changes in voting laws reviewed by the federal government.

But that part of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago with the Shelby County v. Holder ruling, in which Chief Justice John Roberts argued that Section 4 was unnecessary because "things have changed dramatically" in the South since 1965.

With that pesky Voting Rights Act out of the way, for example, North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican controlled North Carolina legislature passed sweeping changes to their voter registration laws.

Those changes included a reduction in days for early voting, restrictions on voters casting ballots outside of their registered district, and, of course, a requirement that voters have a government-issued photo id.

North Carolina wouldn't have been able to pass those reforms without federal preclearance if Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act were in place.

And North Carolina and Alabama aren't the only Republican-controlled states that have passed voter suppression laws like this.

Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia were all covered under Section 4, and have all passed Voter ID laws and other restrictions since the Shelby County ruling in 2013.

And even beyond the Deep South, Republican controlled legislatures around the country are using the phony non-problem of "voter fraud", which is virtually non-existent, as an excuse to make it harder for people, particularly people of color, the elderly, students, and the poor, from registering to vote or voting.

Wisconsin and Ohio, under the governorships of Scott Walker and John Kasich, have both put into place voter suppression laws that require a photo ID to vote, reduce the period for early voting, and make it harder to register other people to vote.

What do all of these states have in common?

Every single one of them has Republican controlled legislatures and executives.

And that shouldn't come as any surprise, because even if this isn't about specifically suppressing minority and low-income voters along with students and the elderly, this is still about making it difficult to register to vote and to cast a ballot.

Which is how Republicans win elections, and it's been part of their strategy for at least 35 years.

But don't take it from me, take it from Heritage Foundation and ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich.

That's exactly what's going on in Alabama, and in Republican controlled states across the country.

Because when people don't, or can't, vote, the oligarchs win.

It's not just time to restore the Voting Rights Act so that states with a history of discrimination, like Alabama and North Carolina, are required to get federal pre-clearance before they make changes to voting laws.

We also must make it easier to register to vote if we truly want our democracy to flourish and to ensure that every person has the ability and opportunity to cast their vote.

States across the country should implement automatic voter registration as Oregon just did, so that people are automatically registered to vote when they register for selective service or receive a driver's license.

And we need to expand early and absentee voting, and push for Oregon-style voting by mail across the country.

Because our republic is fundamentally stronger when we make it easier to vote, and it's time to make our democracy thrive so it can once again work for We the People.


DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 7 years 25 weeks ago

Suppressing the black voice and committing election fraud is nothing new to the GOP. The appropriate response would be fighting fire with fire and making sure the electorate is prepared well in advance for all of these tactics. We have no excuse not to be. We have ample warning. It will not be easy to win the next election; but, winning it is an imperative. Like Bernie Sanders said, 'The Republicans didn't win the last election, the Democrats lost it.' If we let them get away with this nonsense we really have no one to blame but ourselves.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 25 weeks ago

It figures. What else can we expect from a make-believe democracy? They keep finding more ways to make it difficult to vote for those least likely to vote Republican.

I agree with Marc. The only way to fight back is to be forewarned and forearmed. The more these fascists want to suppress the vote, the more we should be aware of how important our votes actually are. Were they not, the fascists wouldn't be trying so hard to suppress them. Their efforts should make us ALL more determined than ever to vote.

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 7 years 25 weeks ago

Is anyone besides me ENRAGED over this? As true Americans, how can a majority of us allow these modern-day-acting-plantation-owners to continue this kind of abuse?! This is so UN-American, I personally can't stomach the thought of these counties in Alabama, and other counties in Red States being rewarded for this kind of behavior. Surely there are enouogh decent people left in America to stand up and not only say, "Enough!"... but DO something about this.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 25 weeks ago

I'm surprised that Repugnicans haven't tried to cancel elections because "the election process is too expensive". But, I'll bet my last dollar they're thinking about it.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 25 weeks ago

Kend, Dr. Econ, look at the "The Pope Says Greed is not Good" post, I have replies to youse there. I been away for a while.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 25 weeks ago

Isn't Alabama one of the states covered by the provision of the Voting Rights Act that was struck down? How can this voter ID stuff not have been considered evidence of its still being needed?

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 25 weeks ago

"Kend, what you're observing is the first uncorrupted and genuinely Christian pope in a long time. There's nothing wrong with being the world's largest nonprofit corporation - if it truly stays that way and remains true to its mission. You are too greedy."

i am too greedy. All the gold and their followers are starving. I would give up everything before my family went without food. But I hope you are right about this pope. I think the corruption is too deep and goes back way too far.

Nice ce arguing again with you though.

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 25 weeks ago

I checked and there is a lot of different ID's you can get to vote in Alabama and they have years to get them. I must be missing something. We have to do the same up here in Canada to vote. It's no big deal.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 25 weeks ago

I've had my disagreement with Thom on judicial review, but we can agree on this (though for different reasons).

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 4: "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators."

There are no conditions on this power. Therefore, there is absolutely no basis for the Supreme Court to void any Congressional regulation of states' election laws.

And as a guest on some show said, SCOTUS struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act without being shown that anyone was harmed by it. How could a state have standing to be a plaintiff against that section? The only "harm" is that it can't discriminate against voters, and that's not a right, or even something beneficial to the state.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 7 years 25 weeks ago
Quote Kend:I checked and there is a lot of different ID's you can get to vote in Alabama and they have years to get them. I must be missing something. We have to do the same up here in Canada to vote. It's no big deal.

God help me, I'm about to agree with Kend. Actually, you do make a good point. The only people who will be affected by this are people who already neither have a driver's license or an ID card. You cannot open a bank account, sign a rental agreement, or even apply for food stamps without proper identification. You even need an ID to get arrested. If you don't have one, they'll figure out who you are in short time. The only people this might affect are kids turning 18 for the first time, or the homeless. Everyone else should have some kind of an ID. Amongst those, I imagine, only a small percentage will actually bother to vote anyway.

Nevertheless, it is still a nasty dirty trick for the GOP legislators to try and pull. We can only hope that - like with most of their dirty tricks - it backfires right in their faces and brings far more truly pissed off people to the poles. If that happens, it was worth it!

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 7 years 25 weeks ago

Fifty different sets of voting laws ? What could possibly make each state so different that it requires it's own unique set of voting regulations ? An obvious gift to the leaders of the close knit colonies to gain their support for more troubling regulations to be added later. After all, the framers of the Constitution exceeded the projected completion date by months arguing over the inclusion of certain religious doctrine in this founding document. This battle was waged by those who had relatives in England and they were aware of the authoritarian rule aggressively practiced by the Church of England of that period.

The Constitution was hand written in the late eighteenth century and it has long been known to contain several misspellings that were never corrected. If we really have such high regard for this founding document, you would at least think that we could run a spell check !

In addition, the founders were constructing this document based on existing European Law and the current configuration of the country, thirteen colonies that were in very close proximity to the nation's capital at that time, New York City. The founders were correct to include a method for amending the original document that would likely become irrelevant in the future. However the prescribed methods devised for adding amendments to the Constitution were left in the hands of elected officials rather than a public referendum ! Obviously the founders never anticipated the corruption that would eventually take control of the process they worked so hard to create !

Patrick Keith's picture
Patrick Keith 7 years 25 weeks ago

Here in California, local Democratic Clubs and Democratic County Central Committees are looking to spend their money within the restrictions of the FEC and FPPC. If clubs and central committees are the same in Alabama, etc., they should spend some of their money to rent busses and drive people to the nearest DMV so they can register.

The club reps who are on-board the busses could, of course, then educate the newly registered voters on the evil ways of the Republican Party.

It should be explained that the way to get rid of these evil deeds/politicians is to get out and vote and elect Democrats to Governor and the Legislators.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 25 weeks ago

RTOWNSLEY, most legal documents back then had way more misspellings. You should see some of them; they'd spell the same word two different ways in one sentence. And when the Constitution refers to conventions in the states for amendments (and for ratifying the Constitution itself), that is a popular referendum.

w1ders's picture
w1ders 7 years 25 weeks ago

Thinking folks in those counties are tired of being walked on they will make sure they have the I.D. Like someone already said, new eighteen year olds that want to vote will get to a DMV. I'm thinking a lot of the gop whack jobs will lose in coming elections and when we vote Bernie in he will adjust the so called supreme court. We will win in the end. I also hope we are smart enough to put rules in place that can not be changed so easily in the future. Failure, refusal, to answer any questions like Roberts will be enough to disqualify any nominee. Or fire afterwards for lying as Roberts did about precedent.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 25 weeks ago

Kend, if you were one of the Pope's bishops he would fire you.
You can't blame him for hundreds of years of corruption. You know he doesn't approve of "all that gold and his followers are starving".
He's an honest guy in a corrupt world and, you watch, they're gonna crucify him too.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 25 weeks ago

D'Anne Marc and Kend, it is a big deal because, whatever rationale you want to put on it - "They should be able to get an ID, no problem."; "It's real simple, no big deal." - the result is gonna be that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people will be disenfranchised, i.e., they will be denied the right to vote and that will skew the results of the elections many thousands of times more than the small handful of people who vote illegally now do.

justljk's picture
justljk 7 years 24 weeks ago

widers: that's assuming people even know about it. Most people are not news -oriented, only watch the evening local news which doesn't carry anything political usually. Where are the Democratic Party on this? As usual, their lack of public comment and response is notable. It's as if they don't even care about losing. Most progressives just mock these 'backward" "vile" Alabamans, but now is not the time for ridicule. The corporate class is dead serious about taking over all branches of the government - BY HOOK OR BY CROOK! (Carl Rove's goal from way back), and the Democrats don't take them seriously - and look - they've got the Supreme Court, the House, the Senate, more than half the state legislatures and governorships. You know Carl Rove couldn't believe Romney lost - he thought he had it all set up, but something, still not revealed, went wrong. You know they are not about to lose this election in 2016. Whatever is needed they are doing.- abo e board, and below board. Alabama is just the tip oif the iceberg. The Democratic Party needs to stand up now, and take Rove's plan seriously. We can no longer just believe in the above board Constitutional system, but we have to fight the adversary on their terms, For example, the Democratic Party should be checking out all computer voting machine jurisdictions,, and filing all kinds of lawsuits against Alabama and the like, even if they think the law is against them - there is always some little precedent they can pull up and rely on. Embrace the supporting lay groups that have been working on these issues, and stop considering them " conspiracy groups". All of us should "advertise" Thom's show on the back windshield of our cars, and use it to marker short news notes. I do, and get honks.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Unequal Protection, 2nd Edition:
"If you wonder why and when giant corporations got the power to reign supreme over us, here’s the story."
Jim Hightower, national radio commentator and author of Swim Against the Current
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann seeks out interesting subjects from such disparate outposts of curiosity that you have to wonder whether or not he uncovered them or they selected him."
Leonardo DiCaprio, actor, producer, and environmental activist
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"In an age rife with media-inspired confusion and political cowardice, we yearn for a decent, caring, deeply human soul whose grasp of the problems confronting us provides a light by which we can make our way through the quagmire of lies, distortions, pandering, and hollow self-puffery that strips the American Dream of its promise. How lucky we are, then, to have access to the wit, wisdom, and willingness of Thom Hartmann, who shares with us here that very light, grown out of his own life experience."
Mike Farrell, actor, political activist, and author of Just Call Me Mike and Of Mule and Man