Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton hit out at Alabama Republicans, including Gov. Robert Bentley, for the state's decision to close 31 Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices. Many allege that the decision -- announced by the state's law enforcement authorities earlier this month -- would disproportionately curtail the voting rights of residents in poor, rural, mostly African-American communities.
Last year, the state enacted a law requiring voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls. And, earlier this month, as part of a cost-cutting measure, state authorities shut down DMV offices that issue driving licenses in 31 counties, many of them with majority African-American populations. In Alabama, African-Americans make up approximately 25 percent of the state's population.
"We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote," Clinton reportedly said Saturday, during a speech at the Alabama Democratic Conference convention. "No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote," she said, adding: "This is a blast from the Jim Crow past."
Critics of the decision, which include Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) -- the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama -- have alleged that the move was politically motivated and aimed at disenfranchising the African-American population.
"This decision will leave eight out of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters without a Department of Motor Vehicles to issue an Alabama driver's license," Sewell wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier this month. "This fact combined with Alabama's voter ID law means that the DMV closure decision will disproportionately affect African-American voters in violation of their constitutionally protected right to vote."
On Saturday, Bentley defended the decision on Twitter, stating that the allegation of the closure being racially motivated "is absolutely not true."
Meanwhile Mrs. Clinton can work to solve our country's $18 Trillion deficit, in the unfortunate event she is elected President.
— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) October 17, 2015
"It seems Mrs Clinton isn't as well versed in Alabama's budgeting process as she is in exploiting a situation for her personal political gain," Bentley said. "If she were she would know the closure of 31 Driver License offices is based on a funds shortfall appropriated by the Legislature to ALEA [Alabama Law Enforcement Agency]."