Driver’s License Office Closings: The Struggle Revealed
As a means of balancing the General Fund, it was decided that 31 rural driver's license offices would close. Many of these are in the state's Black Belt region, one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the state. ALL of this is a problem!
I can remember moving from Chicago to Aliceville, AL. Although we'd come down to visit our family every so often, actually moving and experiencing life as many others knew it was very much a culture shock. We first moved to a home with no indoor plumbing and would draw water from an outdoor spigot, carrying it in buckets to put on the stove and warm. We'd then put that water into a small pail from which we would bathe. When we had to use the restroom, we had to go to the closest place with indoor plumbing: the church. This would be our lives for a number of weeks. (It is also one of the reasons why I have little respect for those who tout "the struggle" as an excuse for poor performance. Until you live LIKE THAT, you don't know the struggle.)
Living like that in the 90's was hardly comprehensible to my young mind which had come from a live of convenience. So now, almost 20 years, it's hard to imagine the fact that some people do still live in such a state of poverty, but it's reality! Back in those days, some people would make their trips "into town" to get groceries and might travel to a larger city with a mall, skating rink, bowling alley, and real restaurants once or twice a month. Many planned trips to their county seats to handle legal business far in advance because although the journey was only 10-20 minutes, it could significantly affect one's budget from the amount of fuel used to whether or not the individual would have to take off work.
Oftentimes, teens seeking to get their driver's licenses would have to find a car to borrow to take their tests, and if they happened to fail the test, it could be weeks before they were able to test again, as schedules had to be arranged. Now, let's take an impoverished person in Aliceville who needs a license... That person now has to find a way to Tuscaloosa, the closest county where a license may be obtained. So, not only does this person have to find someone willing to let him use a car for the test, but the donor must also be willing to give up most if not all of a day, as Tuscaloosa is now the closest place for a number of surrounding counties. As it is, driver's license offices are often innundated with Tuscaloosa County residents. Add in residents from Bibb, Greene, Hale, Lamar, and Pickens Counties and it's a melee! Something that may have taken an hour or two before could now be a days-long process.
Still doesn't sound like a big deal? Factor in the law of voters needing photo IDs. So, you have your impoverished who have trouble getting an ID. Election time rolls around. Guess who now cannot vote.
Do I think closing the driver's license offices was a deliberate move to limit the voting rights of residents in these areas? Not really. However, I DO think it should have been given more thought. I also think the possibility of this happening should have been brought before a lawmaker's constituents to allow them the opportunity to voice their concerns and possibly offer another solution as opposed to being told "This is what we've decided to do."
I firmly view politicians as public employees. And if only $0.10 of my money goes to pay them, I should be given the option to provide input as to how my money should or should not be spent. I DEFINITELY wouldn't go for not only having a percentage of my money being taken but then to also have my voting rights limited or made more difficult than anyone else's. Closing these license offices has the potential to become "taxation without representation." If any amount of a person's income is withheld but that person cannot vote....
Personally, I think there was definitely another way to balance the budget. People often decry tax increases but will pay hospitality taxes out the wazoo for a vacation. Even a one-percent sales tax increase might have been helpful. We'd adjust to that much easier than some would adjust to having their license offices closed. All of this goes to show that many of the people we have in office have no idea about all of the people they're supposed to be serving.