Joining Hillary Clinton and other Democrats in denouncing the state of Alabama and its recent decision to shutter forty-five offices that distribute driver's license offices, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out Republicans for being “cowards” for allegedly seeking to win elections by depriving minorities and the poor of the right to vote. Alabama’s decision will leave only four driver’s license offices open in the entire state. Photo identification is now required in Alabama for voter registration. Driver’s licenses provide a government-issued identification required for voter registration.
Said Sanders said in a tweet on October 18, "Republican cowards all across the country, including Alabama, are very clearly trying to win elections by suppressing the vote and making it harder for low-income people, minorities, young people and seniors to vote. That has to change. Anyone 18 years of age or older should be automatically registered to vote." Sanders, who tends towards socialism but caucuses with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, has long called for ending what he believes is Republican suppression of voters.
In a speech he delivered in August, Sanders opined that laws that purportedly combat voter fraud are actually designed by Republicans to disenfranchise their fellow Americans. “Anybody who is suppressing the vote, anybody who is intentionally trying to keep people from voting because the candidate knows that those people would vote against him or her, that person is a political coward," Sanders said. “If you don't have the guts to run for office on your ideas, then you shouldn't run for office at all." Sanders remains in second place among Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination.
According to the People's World, a Communist newspaper published in the U.S., due to the new ID requirement, voting throughout Alabama is already down by 41 percent in state and local elections.
Front-runner Hillary Clinton also expressed disgust with Republicans over supposed voter disenfranchisement. Speaking to the decision by Alabama Gov. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) for closing the driver-licensing offices in rural, mostly black areas, Clinton said “This is wrong. Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and John Lewis bled, it is hard to believe that we are back having this same debate” about voting rights for black Americans.
A recording obtained by AL.com revealed some of Gov. Bentley’s reasoning for the closures. According to AL.com, on October 7 Bentley met with 17 members of the state GOP Steering Committee to discuss Alabama’s budget problems, which were said to be the cause of the closures. Bentley dismissed concerns that the closures would make harder for residents -- especially blacks living in rural Alabama -- to vote. AL’s version of the recording went thus:
"They are wrong on this issue," said Bentley. "Everyone can get a license and everyone can get a voter ID. They (critics) really don't have anything to talk about. It's politics at its worst. And it's race politics at its worst."
Bentley told the GOP group that he had worked to change the image of the state, which during the Civil Rights era was where some of the most signal events took place.
"Alabama is not George Wallace's state. I don't want it to be George Wallace's state." said Bentley in the recording, referring to his Democrat predecessor who once stood four-square against 1960s Federal insistence on the racial integration of public schools and universities. "I want us to be inclusive. I don't want us to look at the color of people's skin. I don't want us to look at whether they are male or female. We are all Alabamians and I'm their governor. I know most of them (blacks in the affected counties losing driver's license offices) are not going to vote Republican. But you are not going to win people over by not being inclusive."
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