By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
Wednesday, October 6, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) denied allegations that the decision to close 31 driver’s licenses offices across Alabama is part of some conspiracy to suppress Black voter turnout in the State.
The Alabama media group is reporting that Gov. Bentley said in Eva, “As far as voting rights, this (closings) has nothing to do with that.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) has called on the US Department of Justice to investigate the decision by the Bentley administration.
Gov. Bentley said, “Terri Sewell, she does a great job for her district … the only thing I wish she had done was call our office and gotten the facts.”
Gov. Bentley has drafted a formal letter to Rep. Sewell attempting to explain the controversial decision.
Gov. Bentley said in a statement on Facebook, “In light of a recent editorial from Congresswoman Terri Sewell regarding the ALEA General Fund Budget cut which eliminated staff travel to 31 part-time, non-state owned, satellite locations and reallocating them to District Driver License Offices, I sent Congresswoman Sewell a letter to address her concerns.”
In the letter, Gov. Bentley told Rep. Sewell that her actions were impulsive, ill informed, and based on irresponsible media reports. Bentley claims that the cuts were necessary because of the legislative budget cuts.
The legislature claims that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is level funded since they raised the driver’s license renewal fee to record highs in January and that if any cuts were necessary it should have been to management and administration in Montgomery.
Even Democratic Presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton has denounced the decision by the Bentley administration. Bentley told Al.com, “You know Hillary Clinton never lets the facts get in the way of a good political sound bite and that’s exactly what she has done criticizing the state of Alabama.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) has roundly criticized the decision by the Bentley administration. Zeigler said in a statement on Tuesday night, “I hate to be an “I told you so.” I loudly said Gov. Bentley did not need to close 31 drivers license offices for two reasons: (1) The law prohibits him from closing them. (2) There is ample money to keep them open if he will instead cut fat from his own budget, political perks and waste.”
Zeigler continued, “Now, Jessie Jackson and liberal groups are going to sue Alabama because they think closing the 31 satellite DL offices will hurt the accessibility of photo IDs for voting. It is not true, since photo IDs are provided by the Secretary of State and voter registration offices. Still, Alabama will waste tens of thousands in legal costs to defend By the closings.”
The conservative state auditor said, “It is frustrating that the Bentley advisers do not listen to me and do not listen to YOU. If they would only listen, here is the law: Act 2015-540, page 57, lines 4-16: “It is further the intent of the Legislature that all driver license offices and trooper posts in operation at the beginning of fiscal year 2015 remain in operation during fiscal year 2016 and that any reductions in force implemented by the agency during fiscal year 2016 focus on areas of operation not directly impacting services provided to customers.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell said, “#Selma50 was more than a kumbaya moment. Congress has real work to do! We walked across that bridge in ALEA claims that the 31 rural driver’s license offices issued only five percent of the total number of driver’s licenses.