Alabama eliminating DMVs in majority-black counties to stop black people from registering to vote is not an isolated incident. Rather, it’s part of a statewide effort to deny African-Americans any semblance of a decent life.
Kimberly Spruell has to travel 45 miles to the nearest Walmart; 80 miles to the nearest mall; 42 miles to a hospital with more than four doctors; and now 45 miles to the driver’s license office.
She used to go to the state park for picnics but now that’s been shut down.
For years, residents of Wilcox County like Spruell have believed the state’s elected officials had a certain disregard for the Black Belt. And when the state legislature passed measures Sept. 30 to combat the General Fund budget deficit, Wilcox County was directly affected.
In the cuts, Wilcox County lost Roland Cooper State Park, one of the county’s only sources of tourism. The county also lost its driver’s license bureau, which operated one day a week inside a shopping center just west of downtown.
The closest driver’s license offices are now in Selma or Linden – both a 45-minute drive.
Spruell, like 16 percent of the county (the highest in the state as of August 2015), is unemployed. The 34-year-old Marine and National Guard veteran lives completely off her monthly veteran’s benefit check. She wants to work, but there are few jobs.
She can’t move because she has nowhere to go and no money to get there. With a median household income of less than $24,000 in 2013, Wilcox County is the poorest county in Alabama and the sixth poorest county in the nation.
Because of the county’s remoteness, voting can be difficult for many people. Transportation is often a major barrier to voter turnout, Wilcox County Circuit Clerk Ralph Ervin said.
In the 2014 general election, 4,258 Wilcox County residents cast votes for the gubernatorial race – 37 percent of the county’s 2013 U.S. Census estimate of 11,307 total residents. Ervin said more people would vote if they had the means to do so.
Which is of course the point of closing the DMVs.