By Katie Moore, The Topeka Capital-Journal
The ACLU of Kansas said Tuesday it is concerned about voters’ rights in Dodge City because of the location of the city’s lone, temporary polling place, but the office of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach contends no problem exists.
The polling site is on the edge of Dodge City with no public transportation, said Micah Kubic, executive director of ACLU of Kansas, where freight trains block traffic during times when people need access to polls.
The site is also on the south side of Dodge City, a town of more than 27,000, making it more difficult for Hispanic voters on the north side of town to vote, he said. The ACLU noted that Dodge City is more than 50 percent Hispanic.
Bryan Caskey, the state’s election director, said Ford County clerk Debbie Cox did a good job in securing a suitable polling site after she was informed by the local school district the original location would be undergoing renovations.
Cox — who didn’t return phone calls Tuesday — came up with a “sound plan” in a short amount of time, Caskey said, after the issue was thrust on her.
Additionally, Caskey said mailers in English and Spanish were sent out informing voters of the change as well as advance voting.
“I don’t know what more she could have done,” he said.
Tuesday was the last day to register in Kansas for the Nov. 6 election.
The ACLU said voting issues were brought to the organization’s attention in the fall of 2017 by a Ford County resident and that long-term issues still exist.
Dodge City had multiple poll locations as recently as 2002, but all but one have closed, according to the ACLU. The remaining location serves more than 13,000 people. Kubic said that is more than 10 times the average number of voters at Kansas poll sites and called the Dodge City location “one of the most burdened in the state.”
Factors like longer distances and longer lines discourage people from voting, he said, adding he doesn’t think the secretary of state’s office cares about voter turnout.
Caskey said he wasn’t sure why having one polling place was suddenly an issue when it has been that way for more than a decade and that it has worked efficiently.
Caskey said the number of assigned voters to a particular location didn’t mean anything to him and that it was more important to look at the amount of time spent voting. He wasn’t aware of any complaints from Dodge City regarding wait times.
Each county’s election officer is responsible for identifying polling places, and there is no requirement on the number of assigned voters to a particular site.
The ACLU is in talks with the Dodge City School District to see if some school buildings could be used as polling locations. A free Election Day bus will offer rides to voters in Dodge City.