By Alton Mitchell
Over the past couple months what started as a whisper in the wind about possible drivers license office closures in the state of Alabama, mostly in lower population areas has grown from whispers and rumors the hard truth. However on Monday after receiving much criticism and accusations of unfair treatments of certain individuals and groups Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has made a dramatic decision to keep some life in the states rural drivers license offices at least partially.
The decision handed down Monday will restore temporary service to some drivers license offices in the state that were slated to be eliminated from service altogether including the local office in LaFayette. The announcement revealed that those offices that were on the chopping block will be allowed to remain open and operate for at least one day per month.
Monday’s announcement is seen as a small victory for individuals whom were in opposition of the closure of the states 31 rural offices. The opposition to the closure was streamlined by U.S. Representative Terri Sewell of Selma who argued that the closure targeted poor and minority centers in Alabama. Her district included eight counties that were slated to lose service.
A strong argument that is believed to sway the Governors decision is that the closures would have made it difficult to obtain identification, which is key to being able to vote in the state. Without identification individuals would not have been able to participate in voting activities in elections and that would result in the disenfranchisement of potential voters.
Governor Bentley agreed last week that Alabamians residing in rural areas need to have a means of access to offices to take tests and obtain licenses or identification. Following that announcement last week he followed up with his Monday announcement of limited reinstatement of service. Governor Bentley still defended his previous action as stating that it is required as a budgetary move in the state.
Representative Sewell met with Bentley and saw the Governors move as a strong proactive step to resolving the situation, but she also cited it as being only the “bare minimum access to services”.
In a statement Governor Bentley reassured Alabamians that there is no hidden political agenda behind the closures nor any racial motivation to disenfranchise any potential voters of their right. No timeline has yet been released for the implication of the Governor’s revised plan, nor which day(s) the local LaFayette office will be operational.