Rev. Jesse Jackson calls for investigation into Alabama DMV closings

Published: Oct. 7, 2015 at 10:30 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2016 at 10:41 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Reverend Jesse Jackson flew to Alabama Wednesday to join the calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the closing of 31 of the state's satellite driver's license offices.

Alabama's lone Democratic Congresswoman, Terri Sewell, requested an investigation after the closures left eight of her counties without a DMV. Many of the closures occurred in the state's "Black Belt", a historically poor area of the state with populations that are largely made up of minorities and the poor. The closures have left some believing the closures could be racially motivated.

Compounding the issue, Alabama's voter ID law requires a government issued voter ID, such as a drivers license, in order to vote. 

Jackson said the closings disproportionately hurt minorities, adding that it was not right for the state to close DMV's to save money when it has turned down billions of dollars in revenue by not expanding Medicaid. 

Gov. Robert Bentley maintains the closings were business-related because of budget cuts, but state representative John Knight [D-Montgomery], doesn't buy it. Knight said most of the locations closed were operating rent free because they resided in state buildings, and because no one was let go, the state did not save money in the way of salaries.

Also, according to Knight, the consolidation that became the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, or ALEA, was supposed to save the state $30 million, and a tax increase passed early in the year was supposed to provide an additional $11 million in revenue for the program. 

Jackson said he would like to go a step further and have every person become automatically registered to vote at the age of 18. Jackson and Knight met with the governor and Secretary of State John Merrill at the governor's office. After the meeting, Bentley said he would work with the Legislative Black Caucus to come up with funding solutions to reopen rural DMV locations.

"Governor Bentley listened to the concerns raised today by Reverend Jesse Jackson. Secretary Merrill explained the options for citizens to receive a photo ID in order to vote. Governor Bentley and the Legislative Black Caucus agreed to work together to find solutions to further fund driver license offices in Alabama's rural counties," Bentley's office said in a statement. 

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