Hillary Clinton Calls Alabama's Voting Laws a 'Blast From the Jim Crow Past'

Illustration for article titled Hillary Clinton Calls Alabamas Voting Laws a Blast From the Jim Crow Past

In a speech delivered last night in Alabama, Hillary Clinton called the state’s voting laws a “blast from the Jim Crow past.” She accused Alabama Republicans, including governor Robert Bentley, of purposefully undoing the progress made in the state during the civil rights movement.

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Clinton’s comments were in response to Bentley’s decision to close 31 driver’s license offices, particularly in deeply impoverished counties. Last year, the state enacted laws which require residents to present government-issued identification in order to vote. Earlier this month, Alabama made it even harder to obtain government identification when it announced that it would close driver’s licenses offices in 28 counties.

The Guardian reports:

“[...]Bentley says the office closures are a cost-cutting measure. Opponents say they are an effort toward disenfranchisement that harkens back to Alabama’s painful past. A half-century ago, Bloody Sunday in Selma led to the Voting Rights Act, removing obstacles for black voters.”

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Clinton urged Bentley to keep the offices open. “It’s hard to believe we are back having this same debate about whether every American gets a chance to vote,” she said.

The Hill notes that Alabama has one of the worst minority voting records in the United States and the closures will disproportionately affect minority voters. The counties where offices are slated for closure are all 75% black. Clinton called the laws “discriminatory and demeaning.”

Image via AP.

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DISCUSSION

snakeperson
Snake Person

I’m going to catch hell for this and I hope I don’t get sent back to the greys forever, but:

There’s more to it than that, and it’s all depressing and disappointing. First, the 75% minority statistic is inaccurate. There are many majority-white counties on the lost as well, but what all of them have in common is that they are rural.

Those who blame the dismantling of the preclearance portion of the Voting Rights Act are correct—this could not have happened without that. Black voters are disproportionately affected, and I’m not looking forward to seeing the turnout percentages from municipal elections and the presidential next year.

That being said, the effects that the new budget cutting measures have are widespread and disatrous, and affect not just black voters, but poor white and Hispanic ones as well, as well as families and those not belonging to more conservative faiths. State parks are being shuttered. State-run liquor stores are being closed. State employees laid off. Alabamans across the board are seeing their quality of life go down year after year because of a state government that doesn’t care about them and doesn’t have to. The dissenting voices are too soft and too weak to make an impact, thanks to a state Democratic party that has been useless and toothless for the better part of a decade. The Republican money from a few white, wealthy enclaves is what matters in the state, and that’s why taxpayers aren’t seeing the impact of a thriving auto industry and resurgent urban cetnters.

Opening the offices to obtain driver’s licenses is a necessary next step (you can still renew in county probate offices, but that isn’t helpful for new voters), but it can’t be the last one. Minority and rural disenfranchisement will end when there is greater competition for elected offices and districts are redrawn. Fixing the budget crisis in a responsible way can’t happen until Alabama has a responsible, responsive state government.