Alabama is taking driving as a "privilege, not a right" very, very seriously
If you're going to need a driver's license in Alabama, you're most likely going to have to figure out a way to get to one of only four driver's licenses offices in the entire state:
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said budget cuts will result in closing driver's license offices across the state.
The agency said the cut will be in phases, with 33 offices closed during the first wave.
In January 2016, a further 12 offices will close. By March, all but four offices in the entire state will shut their doors.
The offices that will remain open, ALEA said, are Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham.
This will no doubt have a devastating effect on lower-income residents. Considering 18.7% of residents live at "poverty level"
and another 8.4% at extreme poverty levels
, it's another blow that will surely leave more people behind. Can you imagine a single parent needing to take an entire day—or even two days—to travel to a driver's license office and then wait all day for their turn to take the test?
Perhaps most frightening about these closures is the effect it will have on voting in Alabama, where a conservative legislature passed a law in 2011 which requires a photo ID to vote. Alabama has already been on a steady decline (41% in November 2014) and these closures certainly won't help to bring those numbers up.
Intended or not, these office closures and the strict voter ID law will have an effect on government, policy and even safety (more people like to drive without a proper license) for a long time to come.
We've all been told "driving is a privilege, not a right." In Alabama, even securing a driver's license is about to become a privilege many cannot afford.
10:12 AM PT: Is this merely an empty threat because of cuts to the department's budget? Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier is appealing to residents to contact their legislators:
"The point is we don't want to do this," Collier said of the closings. "We understand this is a service the public has to have. We felt we've done our part by examining our drivers' license function and trying to see where we could be more efficient."
Collier said lawmakers tell him they're not hearing from voters about the budget shortfall. He urged residents to call their legislators before they end up standing in lines for hours. "I'm a former legislator, so I get it," Collier said. "Tax votes are hard. But they are elected to lead."