By Katie Moore, The Topeka Capital-Journal

Ford County has paid more than $70,000 in legal fees to the firm representing County Clerk Debbie Cox, who was sued over voting access in one of the state’s few majority-minority cities.
In October and November, the county paid $71,481 to the Hinkle Law Firm, which is based in Wichita, a document obtained through an open records request indicates.
The money comes from the county’s general fund, Cox said.
The ACLU sued Cox in late October after she moved Dodge City’s sole voting location outside city limits because the original location was to undergo construction. The lawsuit alleged that the move disenfranchised voters and in particular, the Hispanic population, who make up about 60 percent of the town.
“Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox is using her constituents' tax dollars to pay her lawyer rather than expand their access to voting,” said ACLU interim executive director Lauren Bonds. “Cox has repeatedly argued that Ford County couldn’t afford to open additional polling locations but it seems to us that $70,000 could easily cover the costs associated with additional poll workers and materials.”
Just days before the midterm election, a federal judge denied the ACLU’s request to keep the original site and the new location open as polling places.
However the lawsuit remains unresolved. While Cox said she intends to have a second location by 2020, the ACLU contends she hasn’t fully committed to it.
“It’s important to note that these fees cover only October and November,” Bonds said. “The case is ongoing as Cox has not committed to additional polling places and has not ruled out the continued use of the Expo Center located outside of town. She should stop paying her lawyer and start doing her job.”
Cox’s attorney, Bradley Schlozman, had described the inconvenience of finding the new polling location as minor and accused the ACLU of generalizing statistics to stoke criticism.
“Plaintiffs seem to be projecting a concept that every low-income citizen is simply too helpless to cast a ballot in this election,” he wrote in court documents filed in November. “It is as implausible as it is insulting to the residents of Dodge City.”
A report by the Associated Press found that Schlozman has supported stricter voter ID laws and the removal of inactive voters from rolls in other states.
Johnny Dunlap, a Dodge City resident and member of Ford County Democrats, said it was telling that instead of putting funds towards increasing the number of polling places, Cox has “wasted” money to keep a bad system in place.
He said he would like to see multiple polling locations established for the city’s estimated 13,000 registered voters so they are more in line with the average Kansas polling site which serves 1,200 voters.
“The way it’s being done right now by our county is not working,” Dunlap said. “We have a majority-minority Hispanic population that is not being represented, that is not participating, and I think that whether or not that was done intentionally, the end result was the same — we don’t have people participating who should be and the current county clerk or administration or whoever is responsible doesn’t seem to be interested in changing that.”