On December 15, 2022, the ACLU of Kansas, UCLA Voting Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union, and pro bono partner Cleary Gottlieb LLP filed a federal lawsuit challenging the at-large method of elections in Dodge City, Kansas, charging it unlawfully dilutes the voting power of Latine* residents.
The case was filed on behalf of two Latino residents of Dodge City, who live in areas that could be drawn into single-member districts that would give them the opportunity to elect candidates of choice. The current at-large system violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Latine population in Dodge City is large and growing, with Latine residents making up 65% of the city’s total population, 59% of its voting-age population, and 46% of its citizen voting-age population. However, since at least the year 2000, no Latine-preferred candidates have been elected to the five-member Dodge City Commission. The commission's at-large system of voting means that qualified city residents can vote in elections for all five districts — as opposed to a single-member district model, wherein commission members would represent specific geographic districts within the city and only qualified residents within those districts could vote.
While Dodge City’s Latine population votes cohesively, the city’s at-large system has allowed the non-Hispanic white population to vote as a bloc to prevent the Latine population from electing candidates of choice.
It would be possible to draw a commission map that would give the Latine population the ability to elect candidates of choice in at least two out of five districts.
On April 18, the District Court judge denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, allowing the case to go forward. The parties are litigating the case on an expedited timeline, with trial set for February 2024.
*Latine is the gender neutral of Latino and Latina. The complaint and this release use Latine/Hispanic interchangeably to refer to individuals who self-identify as Latine or Hispanic. When referring to certain population data, the terms “Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino” mean non-white persons of “Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino” origin as defined by the United States Census Bureau and U.S. Office of Management and Budget.