(NEWS5 WKRG) — Civil Rights Leader Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Alabama Wednesday trying to the state to reverse course on closing dozens of driver’s license offices.
Jackson met with Governor Robert Bentley and Secretary of State Jim Bennett in Montgomery Wednesday afternoon, after meeting with civic and political leaders and the Birmingham chapter of the Rainbow Coalition in the morning.
“Of course it’s the new Jim Crow,” Jackson told reporters in Birmingham. “We’re not going to stop until this is repealed.”
Since Alabamians have to show photo ID at the polls, critics like Jackson say closing the driver’s license offices will make it tougher for people to vote.
Of the 29 counties that no longer have an office, eight are 75-percent black, or more. But Jackson says this is not entirely a racial issue.
“This issues affects rural white people in greater number than blacks,” he said.
State officials say the driver’s licenses offices were closed solely for financial reasons and the least-busy ones were selected. The closures impact about five percent of all driver’s license transactions.
Governor Robert Bentley says the state will even send a mobile unit to people’s homes to get them a voter ID card.
“As voting rights, this has nothing to do with that,” said Bentley. “They can have their license renewed at a probate judge’s office. You can do it on line. We will go to people’s houses to have their picture made if they don’t have a photo ID in the State of Alabama. We’re not ever going to do anything to keep people in the State of Alabama from voting.”
Meantime Wednesday, Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell was on MSNBC explaining why she has asked the Justice Department to get involved.
“Those mobile units have only actually issued 29 photo IDs since they’ve been in existence,” said Rep. Sewell, D-Birmingham. “So for me, that’s not the solution.”
She also addressed the fact that free voter ID cards remain available in all 67 counties.
“The reality is when you scratch the surface you find that only 1000 of those of the board of registrars were actually used the last election cycle.
But that, says the Governor, has nothing to do with the fact that Voter ID is every bit as accessible now as it was before the closings were announced.
“Anyone in the State of Alabama can go to the registrar’s office and they can get a photo ID done – in every registrar’s office in the State of Alabama.”
Following his meeting with Jackson, Bentley released the following statement:
“Governor Bentley and the Legislative Black Caucus agreed to work together to find solutions to further fund driver license offices in Alabama’s rural counties.”