The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday it’s investigating the closure or reduction in services at part-time driver’s license offices in Alabama for civil rights violations.
State leaders shut down 31 part-time driver’s license offices in October, citing budget cuts. That meant residents in those rural areas, some with majority black populations, had to travel farther to get a new license or take a driving test. After a public backlash the state agreed to reopen the offices once a month.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says in a statement the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in programs that receive federal funds adding it’s critical license services be free from discrimination. He says though the department has not reached any conclusions.
Governor Robert Bentley issued a statement calling the investigation politically motivated and a weak attempt to embarrass the people of Alabama. He says he’s confident there will be no discrimination claims found.
The issue has come up on the presidential campaign trail. Democratic Candidate Hilary Clinton criticized Alabama leaders for the closures at a party gathering Hoover in October.