A LITTLE OVER a year ago, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced he would close dozens of driver’s license offices — many in poor and minority areas — ostensibly to save money. Nearly all of Alabama’s majority African American counties were to be hit. This rightly prompted a national outcry. Alabama is one of the states that unnecessarily requires people to present picture IDs to vote. Making it harder for people in minority communities to get driver’s licenses only enhanced the potential suppressive impact on minority voter turnout.
After Mr. Bentley hastily announced a partial and inadequate reversal, the story did not get much subsequent national news coverage. Luckily, the federal government did not forget. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced recently it had struck an agreement with Alabama officials to expand the hours that driver’s license services will be available across the state. The agency found that the license office closures hit African American residents harder than others, running afoul of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination in state programs that take federal money.