Ever had to spend half a day getting your driver’s license? You chose to go to the state trooper post on your lunch break, but so did everyone else in town whose last name starts with W.
Those days might be over — at least for the next year.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced this week that some driver's license offices will open on Saturdays beginning this weekend, making it more convenient to take driver tests and get licenses issued.
For the driver's license offices, Saturday hours aren’t an entirely new thing. Several offices, including the one in Birmingham, previously extended operations into the weekend, and locations in Montgomery, Sheffield, Tuscaloosa, Dothan and Jacksonville expanded into Saturdays this weekend, according to an article by Star writer Ben Nunnally.
The story was shared more than 200 times on The Star’s Facebook page, and seemed to have almost unanimous support.
Gloria Curry said “OMG this is so wonderful, for us people that work long hours during the week!!”
The mission is to reduce wait times as ALEA officials anticipate an influx of customers looking to obtain a STAR ID before the deadline next October. The special license is designed with a “star” on it and exclusively allows for domestic air travel and for entry into some federal buildings.
“For people to travel domestically in 2020 (after Oct. 1), their driver’s license has to have the star on it,” Capt. Jonathan Archer said.
The plan after Oct. 1 is to go back to the traditional five-day schedule, but, as state leaders see the benefits and popularity of the Saturday hours, they could decide to make it a permanent feature.
Here’s the question: If it makes sense to make it easier for citizens to participate in necessary government functions in the arena of driver's licenses, then why not in other things — like voting?
What if maneuvering to fit your civic duty into your work or school schedule wasn’t an issue? What if you didn’t have to choose between voting and finding child care?
How much sense would it make to have Election Day 2020 on a Saturday instead of the typical Tuesday?
Or ... what if Election Tuesday was a holiday? It would immediately give the day a weightier significance and would eliminate a prime obstacle to getting to the polls.
Many would say that the freedom to choose our leaders is a privilege that all eligible Americans should take advantage of, without additional conveniences and promptings. But that simply hasn’t been the case.
National voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election was an estimated 62 percent, according to census.gov. That means almost 40 percent of the nation’s eligible voters failed to participate. Meanwhile, the voter turnout in the 2017 presidential election in Iran was an estimated 70 percent, according to the BBC.
It’s true that no one should embrace voting rights more than American citizens, but, as the most advanced nation in the world, why are we still handcuffed by antiquated traditions that do nothing to further democracy? Why is it that we can fill out our taxes online, but we can’t vote online?
Yes, every precaution should always be taken to ensure the integrity of each vote cast, but why wouldn’t we take full advantage of our ingenuity to make voting for state and federal offices as easy, simple and convenient as possible? Like riding a bike. Or getting a driver’s license.
Many other states have been creative in updating the electoral process with approaches like voting by mail, open primaries and even voting online.
To the contrary, in Alabama, rather than smoothing the way to the polls, this state is notorious for making it harder to vote through initiatives like voter ID laws and closing license offices around the state — mostly in minority communities.
Early voting, which allows registered voters to cast a vote during a designated period before the day of poll voting, is an attempt to accomplish the same goal of working convenience into the voting equation. Most states have early voting, but Alabama is not one of them. Somehow, it seems safe to bet that Alabama would be resistant to Saturday voting or an Election Tuesday holiday. But it sure would be nice.