Nearly all of the licensing centers that were recently closed in Alabama will be reopened starting this week.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) announced last week that the satellite offices in 30 counties will be staffed with an examiner at least one day a month, with several locations being opened twice monthly or more.
The centers will be available for Alabama residents who need to take their driver’s test or have their licenses renewed. While some state officials have argued that the new schedule would not be enough to accommodate the demand in the areas, Governor Robert Bentley said that the timetable could be adjusted to fit the need of the residents.
Of the initial closings, only the Atmore office in Escambia County and the Dadeville office in Tallapoosa County will NOT reopen, according to a report by AL.com.
The about-face comes just over a month after the state decided to close 31 of the rural centers, a move it said was made in response to a tightening budget.
At the time that they were targeted for closing, the centers were part-time operations. In 2014, they accounted for a combined 8,000 license transactions in Alabama, out of 1.2 million statewide – or less than 1 percent.
In the face of a constricting budget, that low turnout was what led to the decision to have the examiners there focus on more popular areas, according to the ALEA. The organization currently has only 152 of its 255 Driver License Division positions filled.
But others saw the move as politically or racially motivated in a state that recently passed strict voter ID legislation. Alabama requires state-issued photo identification to participate in its elections, an obligation most frequently fulfilled with a driver’s license.
Closing off the licensing centers would make it much more difficult for residents of those counties—a majority of whom are black—to obtain those IDs.
The issue came to a head when the closings received objections from both African-American and rural caucuses in the Alabama legislature and the state’s lone national African-American representative, Terri Sewell, said that the U.S. Department of Justice could look into the affair.
While money has been cited as the primary obstacle against keeping the centers open, it remained unclear how the ALEA would fund the operations going forward.
UPDATE (November 12): After announcing recently that the 31 licensing centers that were closed in October would once again welcome business, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s office has released the schedule for the re-openings.
By the end of this week, a total of 10—or about one third—of the recently-closed centers will be back in business, including those in
- Bay Minette.
For a list of the full reopening schedule, visit the ALEA website here.
UPDATE: The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) has now reopened all of the previously closed licensing centers across the state. Driver license services are on a first-come, first-serve basis, and closing times at the various locations will be determined by customer volume. You may want to call ahead to make sure the center will be open at the time you’re planning to visit.
You can see a list of the locations of the licensing centers and their new schedules here.