State Secretary responds to call for DOJ investigation after driver license office closings

Secretary of State John Merrill says closures don't make it harder to vote, just harder for first-time drivers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the decision to close 31 driver license offices in Alabama.

She says she believes closing the offices will make it harder for some to vote. The Voter ID Law in Alabama requires everyone to have a photo ID in order to vote. After the driver licenses offices close, 29 counties will no longer have a place that issues driver licenses.

WIAT 42 News spoke with Rep. Sewell about the issue and also Secretary of State John Merrill. The two don’t see eye to eye on whether voters will be affected and they explained their stance on the issue.

“ I think it’s an insensitivity on the part of state officials that they are insisting on photo IDs and then limiting access to those photo ID’s,” Sewell said.

Merrill countered that access to photo IDs is not being limited, rather access to driver license offices is being reduced.

“We’re not making it harder to vote. This decision makes it harder to drive for first time drivers in our state,” Merrill said.

Sewell says that the alternatives for the closed offices suggested by lawmakers are not adequate.

“I think that so many of my constituents struggle with modes of transportation, lack of broadband, and for the DMV to close its offices and say the alternative is online or the use of some van that comes around once a year is unacceptable,” Rep. Sewell said.

Merrill said there is a location available in every county where citizens can get a free photo ID.

“It’s obviously an inconvenience not to have a driver license and not be able to use that as your ID to vote. However, we have a location in each one of the 67 counties where people can go and get a free photo ID right now. Those ID’s are located at each of our Board of Registrars’ offices in the state,” Merrill said.

In addition to asking the DOJ to investigate the decision to close the offices, Sewell is also asking that the offices remain open and the Voter ID Law be eliminated.

For more information on where and how to get a free voter ID, visit: http://www.alabamavoterid.com/getFreePhotoVoterID.aspx

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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