Stupid Ethics Or Unethical Stupidity, Will Someone Please Explain To Alabama Why Appearances Matter?

Alabama-county-mapThis opens a fascinating inquiry. Is it unethical for a state to appear stupid? Is appearing to be unethical inherently stupid? If something looks incredibly unethical but is really just stupid, then is it unethical anyway?

Welcome to Alabama.

Alabama is in a dire budget crisis and must cut state services. So this week it announced that 31 satellite state Motor Vehicle Division offices would no longer have access to driver’s license examiners as a result of the cuts. Alabama added a controversial voter photo-ID law last year, and opponents who argue, like the Obama Dept. of Justice, that the idea of making sure that voters are who they say they are is part of a plot to deny the vote to African Americans could not have asked for a smokier gun. Of the ten Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters—Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes, Bullock, Perry, Wilcox, Dallas, Hale, and Montgomery, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office—Alabama is closing driver license bureaus in eight of them. Every county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see satellite DMVs closed.

If  Alabama was looking for a way to validate the “disparate impact” principle where a state can be found to be racist by  the impact of its actions whether or not there was racist intent, it could not have done better. If it was trying to give ammunition to those who have argued that the Supreme Court “gutted” the Civil Rights Act when it ruled that the 1965 criteria that allowed the Justice Department to assume racism when an old Confederacy state was involved was out of date, and either new data had to be used or states with Stephen Foster songs as their State anthems were going to have to be treated like all the other states and allowed to govern themselves, it could not have been more effective.

“Make IDs essential to vote, then make it harder for blacks to get drivers licenses! What an ingenious plan! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Nobody’s going to see through that!

Or was it:

“Well, gotta cut somewhere—hey, lets; close the DMVs in these counties I just hit with those darts. What? Oh, who cares what the demographics are…we aren’t trying to target anyone…everyone knows that Alabama has a history of being fair and just! Want to go out back and juggle chain saws with me?”

What a conundrum. Stupid? Unethical? Stupid and unethical? So obviously unethical that it’s self-destructively stupid? So stupid that it is unethical for anyone that handicapped to be placed in a position of influence?

I read articles all over the internet by pundits writing “See? See? We told you IDs were a racist plot!” I was sent links to the decision by readers.

Guess what? Alabama had thought about the ID problem, and was prepared to deal with it, or think they are.  Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced, a day after the shift hit the fan,

“All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards. If, for some reason, those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By Oct. 31, our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.”

 

But it doesn’t matter! What matters is what people think is happening. All the news outlets trumpeted the “racist’ cuts and reinforced the impression that voter suppression is going on just like Eric Holder claimed, just like the Congressional Black Congress keeps telling their constituents, just as Hillary and Bernie keep insisting to scare up votes from Obama’s “base.” How many of them publicized the “Oh, did we forget to mention this? Oopsie!” message? Almost none.

The appearance of racism for a day or two is enough. It is unethical…or stupid….for Alabama to act as if its ugly history doesn’t exist, especially since its actions will be attributed to more than just Alabama, because the race card is now a weapon that will be deployed at any provocation, real or imagined.

So which is it? Unethical or stupid?

The answer is unethical and stupid.

__________

Pointers: Too many to mention.

Sources: The Root, News Courier

16 thoughts on “Stupid Ethics Or Unethical Stupidity, Will Someone Please Explain To Alabama Why Appearances Matter?

  1. Love that you link to my local paper! Geographically it’s often easier for people in these areas to go to a neighboring county. It is a 15 minute drive rather than a 30 minute drive. For example, most residents in Lawrence County head to Morgan County (Decatur City) to get their drivers’ licenses. They work there, shop there, etc. That’s one reason the targeted offices together issue 5% of all licenses. It may look bad, but it wasn’t entirely a dartboard decision. It is state government, so I don’t completely rule out darts. My testing facility is often filled with teens and adults from Big Neighbor County because it’s a half day event rather than a whole day and the testing area isn’t in crazy traffic (let’s make a left turn from the right lane).

    • Ah, that makes sense. That’s the sort of thing they should make clear: “We chose these locations to cut service to in order to have the minimum impact on public convenience. Here is a statistical map showing how many people each facility serves. We cut the ones that served the least people and that were closest to alternative facilities.” That said, I have some questions.

      Why did the state allow itself to get into a budget crisis in the first place? That in and of itself seems unethical to me, but since human democracy works by pandering to the selfish and the short-sighted, it’s not surprising. At least now they’re making an effort to cut spending on services they don’t need.

      Also, why were the people not equally as worried about being able to get drivers’ licenses as they were about getting voter IDs? Their licenses act as voter IDs already. When they expire, it’s true that they wouldn’t be able to vote, but more urgently, they wouldn’t be able to drive. Did any articles bring that up?

      If no one was worried about not being able to drive (because they knew darn well they could just go to another county, like always), they shouldn’t have been worried about not being able to vote. Then the only people who would even momentarily worry about voter IDs would be those who were legally blind or otherwise incapable of operating a vehicle, until they heard the belated announcement about the Boards of Registrars in every county.

      On the other hand, I think Wisconsin may be conspiring to prevent me from getting a Wisconsin driver’s license, because their office isn’t open on weekends, and their business hours actually begin after and end before normal ones. That seems fishy.

      • EC, I can’t speak to Alabama. The only times I’m in Alabama is driving through Mobile and it’s environs on my way to visit family in Florida. That said, folks in Texas don’t really care whether or not they have a drivers license. Probably half the drivers (no real statistic out there. If you don’t get a license, how would we know?) in this state are unlicensed, and of those, probably 75% of them are illegals. Ergo, they couldn’t vote anyway. By-the-bye, being unlicensed also means being uninsured…and probably unskilled. Hence 40 MPH in a 75 or 80 zone on the Interstates.

      • The answer of why Alabama got into such a situation is multifaceted. First, taxes are next to godless communism. Second, there have been many “windfalls” that kept revenue coming in. Example: unpaid royalties from Exxon and Shell and the punitive damages which is still being delt with. Third, we had decades of budgets based on what we wanted to spend with little connection to revenue. This was one of the reasons for the Republican sweep in the state elections of 2010. Fourth, and related to #1, much of government control has rested in the southern part of the state, where taxes on timber land is amazingly low. Full disclosure, I’m a transplant that’s lived here 20+ years, so my take is sometimes colored by experience in other states. I’ve also been, horrors, a registered Independent since 1980.

  2. I would personally say that it’s unethical not just because of the astonishingly bad appearance of impropriety at an incredibly racially charged time in a place with a history of racism, which means that no matter what the intent, it will be viewed as racist – it goes deeper than that, in my opinion. Actions this stupid violate basic tenets of competency and trust – people have to be able to at least believe that their government can accomplish the basic tasks of society without dropping the ball.

  3. “Make IDs essential to vote, then make it harder for blacks to get drivers licenses!

    Is that like Chicago requiring handguns to be registered, and then refusing to provuide registration forms?

    But it doesn’t matter! What matters is what people think is happening. All the news outlets trumpeted the “racist’ cuts and reinforced the impression that voter suppression is going on just like Eric Holder claimed, just like the Congressional Black Congress keeps telling their constituents, just as Hillary and Bernie keep insisting to scare up votes from Obama’s “base.”

    And just who are these “people”? These people never claimed that Chicago’s refusal to offer handgun registration forms despite requiring registration as a condition for handgun ownership is racist.

    and here is a comment that I made one and a half years ago .

    the problem is that these race baiters do not even believe the bullshit they are peddling. If they did, they would attack New York City’s handgun permit requirements as racist, for it certainly is more stringent than the proposed voter ID laws. (It includes “proof of residence, a proof of citizenship or permanent residency, and a Social Security card; to pay $431.50 plus the cost of two color photographs; to wait an average of eight months for the application to be processed, and then attend a lengthy in-person interview“. I am just so sure that in-person interviews would never be used as a pretext for racial discrimination.) And yet, not only does the NAACP not protest NYC’s policy (which, according to their logic, is racist), they actually supported a lawsuit against gun manufacturers.

    There is no record that any of these “people” in question ever accused New York City of being racist .

    The “people” in question are intellectually dishonest and do not even apply their beliefs consistently.

    Why should the Alabama government care what they think?

  4. I hate when my brain remembers an essential fact that directly impacts the discussion. License renewal and the issuing of state IDs isn’t handled by the drivers testing office. It’s handled in the office that issues tags for your car. These offices will remain open.

  5. ” If, for some reason, those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By Oct. 31, our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.”

    IF, FOR SOME REASON… BY OCT. 31…AT LEAST ONCE Wow!

    Let’s do some math, boys and girls: That’s van-singular for 67 counties. So maybe, benefit of doubt, there are more, are they all now earmarked for the eight counties lacking DMV/voter registration offices? The list includes Montgomery by the way, the fourth largest county in the state, a city of 300,000.

    Looking a little closer at the problem, getting out the voters in those eight counties looks rather bleak. The official announcement closing the DMVs was made on September 30th. Is that 34 days to register for November 3rd elections? Well, no. It’s only 22 days until … I really don’t want to shout anymore; it hurts my fingers, so just pretend everything is either in uppercase, bold, underscored or has an exclamation mark … voter registration is closed. It happens that the deadline for voter registration in Alabama is 11 (eleven) days before the election: Saturday, Oct. 24. And the rules say that registration has to be complete before the deadline.

    It also means, incidentally, that the registrars (presumably more than one, unless the driver doubles as, say, photographer?) have a full week to drive around doing nothing after the 23rd, unless there are urgent calls for people wanting to register for next year’s elections.

    Do the portable DMV (government) employees work on Saturdays? How many can one van handle in a day, and what’s the percentage of unregistered voters? The estimate currently used says it’s enough in Alabama to control that state’s presidential election results. How long to fill out the forms? To take the pictures and process them — these are picture IDs, right? Or will the registrants not get ID cards and thus be on the voter registration list but, by law, be ineligible to vote?

    Oh, there are free IDs. That’s a relief. You just download the application form and fill it out. First thing you see at the top of the page: Free Photo ID will be issued to registered voters only. Well, so maybe you’re in the wrong line (on the sidewalk). Probably not: they just didn’t want to re-do the forms. Do you have have the right documents? One is easy: a birth certificate or any semblance thereof. After that it gets a little complicated. Quoting from the application you need: “Documentation showing the voter’s date of birth (can be verified by information in the statewide voter file);
    Documentation showing the voter’s name and address as reflected in the voter registration record (can be verified by voter registration: Documentation showing the person is a registered voter.” That’s all. In other words, since the applicant doesn’t have that, well, there’s no sense filling out the form now is it?; it will have to be done at The Van. Who knows what other kind of documentation will be needed – a utility bill, a social security card, two witnesses who have known you for at least 10 years, something?

    Uh, never mind, it’s just $36.25 for a new ID card from your local DMV van. Any low income person can scrape that up, just a bit over $70 if the wife votes too. Grandpa gets a bargain at $31; hey now. How much of the essential family budget does it cost to vote?
    And just one more thing, while you’re standing on the sidewalk, the Alabama DPS does not accept payment by check – better step out of line again and run cash that check to buy a money order.

    It doesn’t say if you can get the ID at the same time as you register to vote, if they’re going to mail it to you, or if you can do both there and then. C’mon, guess. How many people can be processed in a day?

    Sources: http://www.rockthevote.com/get-informed/elections/voter-registration-deadlines.html

    Click to access ApplicationForFreeALPhotoVoterIdCard.pdf

    http://www.dmv.org/al-alabama/id-cards.php

  6. Pingback: After Suing To Gut The Voting Rights Act, Alabama Makes It Harder For Black Counties To Vote. Who Could Have Predicted That? | Alas, a Blog

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