KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Sunday, Missouri's new voter identification law went into effect.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City held a rally and worship event with community members about voter rights and registration.
The goal was to educate voters ahead of the upcoming November election.
“We as a community and we as a church are fighting back,” Amaia Cook, with the Urban League of Greater Kansas City said.
Voting rights in Missouri and Amendment 4 were the topic of conversation Sunday at the Jamison Memorial Temple in KCMO.
“We came together to organize and mobilize to try and combat the excessive state overreach demonstrated through voter suppression of our access to the ballot,” Dr. Vernon Howard, the president with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said.
Howard said it's troubling that decades after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington, people are still fighting for the right to vote.
“I don’t think ironically the same day 59-years-ago of the March on Washington, [the same day] Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. gave the 'I Have A Dream speech,' and here we are 59 years later,” he said. “Still now, 57-years-later after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, still having to battle against states who are drafting law and policy to make it more difficult for us to vote.”
Howard informed the public of Missouri's new voting ID law and told KSHB 41 News it restricts many minorities from coming to the polls.
“House bill 1878 has now struck form. The list of IDs that one can take to validate their identification at the polling place," he said. "Students IDs, the actual confirmation that you have registered to vote from the official board of elections, is now not even a valid form of ID."
Howard further weighed in on he believes the law will impact voters.
“If you are registered to vote, then you can go to the polls," Howard said. "Here’s the problem — when you go the polls, and you don’t have the kind of ID that is required from Missouri Vehicle Department, then you are automatically put into a provisional status where it is possible that your vote wont be counted.”
Howard also said he thinks the new law will take certain communities back in time.
“Negatively all of them are impacted by in large disproportionately. Black people, people of color, immigrants, students, seniors, the houseless, and those who struggle to get the various forms of ID required,” he said. “It is a throwback to the ID poll taxes, it is a throwback to the old literary tests that government put in place in the mid 20th century."
Cook, who was also a speaker at Sunday's event, encouraged voters to vote no on Amendment 4 this November.
“We don’t have a say in what goes on in our very own community as it regards to law enforcement, as it regards to public safety, as it regards community well being,” Cook said. “So the reason we are telling people to vote no on Amendment 4, to the state, to the politicians who don’t live in Kansas City, we are reclaiming control over what goes on in our community.”
KSHB 41 News reached out Missouri Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who is sponsoring Amendment 4.
Luetkemeyer sent us the following statement:
If passed in November, Amendment 4 prevents radical Kansas City politicians from attempting to defund KCPD, as they did in May of last year. A “yes” vote on Amendment 4 is a vote in favor of backing our brave men and women in law enforcement to ensure they have the resources needed to keep our community safe. At a time of record-high crime in Kansas City, we need to make sure we have more officers on the streets
During the event on Sunday, organizers gave attendees another important reminder.
“Register to vote, register to vote, register to vote,” Howard said. "The way that you do this is you educate yourself, and that's the reason we are here tonight, trying to educate the community and be informed and aware on what the rules and policies are that are governing us going forward.”
KSHB 41 News reached out to the Missouri Attorney General's office who said they wouldn't comment on the new law.
We also reached out to Rep. John Simmons, who sponsored the law and the Missouri Secretary of State.
This story will be updated if a response is received.