License Closure Latest: National Media Attention Criticized

Governor Robert Bentley and others are speaking out after some prominent national media outlets criticized Alabama for shutting down dozens of its driver’s license offices in a state that requires photo ID to vote.

“Hope springs eternal that Alabama Republicans didn’t just deliberately zap the ability to get the most common form of voter ID in all of the blackest counties in that state,” said MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow during her show Monday night. “Hope springs eternal it wasn’t specifically that racist.”

Soon 29 Alabama counties won’t have a driver’s license office. Eight of those counties are predominantly black, and the state’s five heaviest Democratic-voting counties are included.

“When I first heard this story I was very concerned,” said Mobile-based political writer Quin Hillyer.

Hillyer, however, says further investigation doesn’t merit the concern.

He notes, as reported by News-5, there are a dozen forms of photo ID accepted at the polls including a free state-issued Voter ID card that remains available at every single county courthouse.

“They can go to a registrar’s office in the exact same town and for free get a photo ID to vote,” Hillyer said. “So, it does not make it more difficult to vote, period.”

That hasn’t been the conclusion nationally. The Washington Post writing: “in counties with the largest black and largely Democratic-leaning bits of the state’s population, it’s now going to be a lot harder to obtain and maintain the state identification needed to vote. See the issue?”

“This is not a voting issue,” responded Hillyer who says the real issue is sloppy reporting.

“The national media jumps on that and does not pay any attention to the actual facts because it fits their story line so well,” he said. “They love to look down their noses at the south in general, and Alabama in particular. It’s sloppy journalism. It’s going to the easy story line – Alabama does something with bad racial implications. And you jump on that and you don’t pay any attention to the facts.

Gov. Bentley told reporters today that the decision to shut down driver’s license offices was not driven by racism nor politics, but by economics.

The author of the Washington Post article told News 5 via email that company policy prohibits her from commenting publically on her stories. She did cite several studies that link Voter ID laws to lower voter turnout.

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