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OVERLAND PARK, KS - In the wake of a mailing from the Ford County Clerk’s office directing Dodge City voters to the wrong address for the town’s single polling place, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has filed a request for an emergency temporary restraining order (TRO) to open an additional voting site there.
The request, filed on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Kansas, and Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, names Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox as defendant. Last month, Cox decided to move the city’s sole voting location at the Civic Center – which serves 13,000 voters – to the Expo Center, a site outside the city limits.
The lawsuit asks the court to direct Cox to reopen the original polling location, “to avert voter confusion since many registrants received a notice from the Defendant directing them to vote at the Civic Center on November 6th.”
“We think this is outrageous,” said ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Micah Kubic, referring to the flyer with the wrong poll address, the moving of the poll site, and the maintenance of one polling site for more than 13,000 people. “We understand that there are people who believe voting is a privilege but we don’t. It is a right that must be fiercely protected. We can and must do better.”
The ACLU of Kansas is suing under two, separate, legal claims: first, a 14th Amendment claim that the situation in Dodge City creates a burden on the fundamental right to vote without a legitimate reason to do so; and second, under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that the actions in Dodge City will have a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters.
“A TRO requiring Defendant to reopen the polling location at the Civic Center will ensure voters have the opportunity to cast a ballot on Election Day,” the lawsuit said. “A TRO holding is necessary to ensure that the thousands of voters burdened by the single, inaccessible polling location at the Expo Center have access to in-person voting in Dodge City on Election Day.”
The Expo Center site is not accessible by public transportation, which many of Dodge City's residents rely on. The Expo Center is also, on average, two times farther from the city’s largest employers. Sets of railroad tracks between voters and the site potentially could cause 20-minute delays during times people need poll access.
Cox, herself, has referred to the Expo site as, “not a convenient location.”
The decision to utilize the Expo site also moves the polling place farther from low-income, disabled, elderly and Hispanic voters, while moving the polling place closer to wealthier white citizens near a country club.
Despite claims to the contrary, there was no legitimate reason to move the site in the first place.
Cox has contended that “construction” near the Civic Center and concerns about “voter safety” were the reason she moved the site. However, as the ACLU of Kansas motion argues, the Civic Center site is hosting a number of events the very week of the Nov. 6 election.
The motion also points out that there are dozens of alternative polling sites, including any of the Dodge City School District buildings the superintendent has offered to open to voters, but Cox did not inquire about them.
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.