BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A federal lawsuit has been filed in the Northern District of Alabama that challenges the state’s photo ID law. The suit calls the law discriminatory saying it imposes “significant and disproportionate burdens” on African-American and Latino voters in the state.
The lawsuit was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama NAACP.
The complaint alleges that state’s initial analysis showed the law would disfranchise more than a quarter of a million registered voters; many of whom are Black and Latino. It calls that a violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The State’s deliberate decision to enforce this discriminatory photo ID law, followed by the DMV office closures, has compelled us to take action,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “It is appalling that, sixty years after Rosa Parks’ courageous protest in Montgomery and fifty years after voting rights activists marched in Selma, the Alabama Legislature continues to pass laws that are designed to deprive people of color of their basic civil rights.” LDF lawyers represented Montgomery residents challenging segregated buses and the Selma marchers.
According to the NAACP release, 25% of Black people and 16% of Latinos lack a government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8% of whites nationally.
“Poor people of color have been hit the hardest by this law,” said Scott Douglas, the Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries. “Unfortunately, Alabama insists on making it harder, rather than easier, for the most vulnerable voters to cast their ballots.”
“If the Alabama photo ID law is not blocked, it will silence the voices of thousands of Alabamians, especially African Americans, the poor and other minorities, in 2016,” said Benard Simelton, the President of the Alabama NAACP.
The lawsuit seeks to block the photo ID law and voucher requirement. It also asks the court to impose pre-clearance obligations under the Voting Rights Act. That would require state lawmakers to seek federal approval before enforcing changes to its voting laws.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill fired back about the lawsuit, saying his office has made great strides to make sure everyone has access to obtain a photo ID. He issued this statement:
“The lawsuit filed today claims that the photo ID requirement is an impediment to voting in our state. Empirical data would indicate that the photo ID requirement is in no way a barrier or obstacle to voting,” said Secretary Merrill. “The photo ID requirement was designed to preserve the credibility and the integrity of the electoral process. I voted for and was a co-sponsor of House Bill 19 that became Act Number 2011-673 in 2011, and I will defend the rights and freedoms of all our eligible citizens to register to vote, obtain a qualified photo voter ID, and participate in the electoral process!”
“In the office of the Secretary of State, we want to make it real easy to vote and real hard to cheat. As of today, there have been no credible reports of a lack of ability for someone to cast their vote because of this law. We are going to continue to register all eligible Alabamians to vote, we are going to abide by the photo ID law passed by the Alabama Legislature, and we are going to issue qualified government photo IDs to preserve voting integrity as long as I have the privilege to serve our citizens in this capacity!”