voting rights act black caucus
Civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia speaks at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Washington, D.C., July 30, 2015. Gary Cameron/Reuters

A group of African-American lawmakers on Friday blasted a decision by Alabama officials to shutter dozens of driver’s license offices, a move that disproportionately affects government ID services in black Democratic areas of the state. Given the state’s 2011 law that requires voters to show government-issued IDs before casting election ballots, closing the offices potentially disenfranchises thousands of black and minority voters, the Congressional Black Caucus said.

“Alabama’s decision to close ID offices reminds us that 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the fight for equal access to the polls still continues today,” the caucus said in a statement released Friday. “Having a say in our country’s Democratic process still does not exist for all.”

Since a 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required federal approval of voting law changes in states with a history of racial discrimination, members of Congress and voting rights activists have pushed for restoration of the law. They did so as some Republican-led states passed laws requiring government-issued IDs and other forms of identification at polling places.

Officials in Alabama -- which has a Republican governor and a GOP-controlled Senate and House of Representatives -- announced Wednesday a decision to shut 31 driver’s license offices because of budget cuts, Slate reported. But as the CBC noted Friday, the shuttered offices are located in rural areas and counties where more than 75 percent of the registered voters are African-American.

“Alabama’s harsh voter ID law further restricts the ability of residents to obtain the requisite identification needed not only to vote, but also to drive, get a job, or apply for a passport,” read the CBC statement.

CBC members, President Barack Obama and other dignitaries joined participants of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in Selma last spring. Black lawmakers said they were “more engaged than ever” in protecting the historic legislation that sought to end open discrimination against minority voters.

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