Statement from ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Micah Kubic:
A Ford County resident reached out to us in the fall of 2017 regarding voting issues there and County Clerk Debbie Cox’s seeming unwillingness to help or even address the concerns.
We were pleased to learn that despite declining to meet with us that Cox has begun addressing some of her constituent’s concerns by notifying Dodge City residents of the location of the new polling site and suddenly offering free Election Day bus rides.
But larger, long-term issues remain.
The temporary polling place has been moved to an expo center outside of town to a place with no public transportation. Also, freight trains block traffic during times when people need poll access.
The ACLU of Kansas did what Cox should have done -- we reached out to Dodge City School Superintendent Dr. Fred Dierksen about using additional school buildings as polling locations. Dr. Dierksen said today that he would support working with the County Executive’s office to do just that.
This trend of closing polling sites, however, is more troubling. As recently as 2002, Dodge City had multiple polling stations but about a decade ago however, Ford County closed all but one of its Dodge City polling stations.
That polling location serves 13,136 voters, making it one of the most burdened polling place in all of Kansas. By comparison, the average Kansas polling site has 1,200 assigned voters.
While the reduction in polling sites hasn’t changed anything for residents on the north side of town living near the expo center, thousands of Hispanic voters on the south side of town now have a harder time voting.
Dodge City is one of Kansas’ only majority-minority counties. More than 50% of its population is Hispanic.
Ford County residents need answers.
On behalf of her constituents, County Clerk Cox should open more voting sites, explain why they were closed in the first place, and institute a new, transparent policy preventing this from happening again.