JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Members and allies of the NAACP rallied against photo voter ID laws Tuesday morning in the Capitol rotunda for the group’s legislative lobby day, the day after voter ID was brought up in the Senate for a second time in two weeks.
State and local leaders, including Secretary of State Jason Kander, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Democratic Kansas City Rep. Brandon Ellington, and Rod Chapel, Jr. – president of the NAACP’s Missouri Chapter, spoke to a group of supporters and called for action on photo voter ID, education, court reform and other issues.
“Before we leave today, we will take our place in the Senate gallery and bare witness,” Chapel told the crowd. “Let’s go see everyone who stands in our way. Our way is the American way. We vote and we pay taxes.”
Most of the speakers focused on the voter ID law, a law that they consider a roll-back of rights won during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“The issues we’re fighting for today are issues we thought were resolved 50 years ago,” Ellington, chair of the legislature’s black caucus, said. “We had people die for the right to vote and now people are going to turn around and tell us it’s not a right, it’s a privilege.”
Kander also spoke against the photo voter ID measure.
“I’m here because black lives matter,” Kander said.
“As secretary of state, I will not stand for legislation that would disenfranchise a single Missouri voter,” he continued. “It’s not right and we have to try to stop it.”
One theme at the rally was that because of the photo voter ID law, the NAACP and allied groups have not been able to focus on measures that would help move the black community forward. Among the issues they feel are being pushed aside are early childhood education, access to community college, police body cameras, municipal court reform and creating opportunities to prevent recidivism.
Several speakers also took the opportunity to thank Gov. Jay Nixon for “banning the box” for state employees yesterday. And Kander said he did the same for the secretary of state’s office.
But the rally kept coming back to the photo voter ID issue, which was taken up in the Senate Monday night for the second time in two weeks. As it was last week, the legislation was laid back on the informal calendar after several hours of debate.
Democratic opposition to the bill was led by Sens. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis and Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City.
“The only reason you would ever need an ID is to try to do away with voter impersonation,” Nasheed said. “In the state of Missouri, that’s not an issue that we have. We do not have a problem with voter impersonation. We have a problem with voter participation, we need to be figuring out ways to engage the electorate.”
Charles Smith, president of the Missouri National Education Association, brought home a similar point about registering more voters Tuesday morning.
“Voting is a constitutional right and should not be restricted by an unnecessary voter poll identification requirement,” he said. “The association urges the legislature to enact legislation that would increase citizen involvement in the process.
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder also spoke briefly, but focused on education and left before anyone at the rally mentioned photo voter ID.