Hundreds in Ellis County Sign Petition for Polling Location at FHSU

Monday, April 15

CONTACT: Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, ACLU of Kansas, [email protected]

HAYS, KAN. – Local leaders in Hays, Kansas are set to hand-deliver a petition with hundreds of signatures calling on County Clerk Bobbi Dreiling to open a polling location on the Fort Hays State University campus. The group plans to bring the petition to the Ellis County Administrative Center at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, in the most recent development in years of the local community’s advocacy for the request.

“Polling locations are a remedy for low voter turnout – not a justification to close them,” said Anna Towns, a Hays resident. “And we’re glad to see so many of our neighbors and other constituents of Ms. Dreiling agree and believe in her ability to correct this situation.”

“This request is a clear and expressed need from the community, and it even predates Ms. Dreiling herself as County Clerk,” said Madison Albers, student at Fort Hays State University and co-chair of the American Democracy Project. “In fact, this has been an ask for around 20 years. Ms. Dreiling has been hearing these requests since she took office in 2020 in the form of direct calls, emails, texts, and now, a petition from her constituents.”

While community requests for a polling location on campus have gone on for decades, in the past year, advocacy has increased. Last spring, Ellis County community members presented the struggle to the ACLU of Kansas and requested assistance with uplifting the issue. Students at FHSU presented a detailed proposal that had the support of university administration and campus police, meeting with Dreiling multiple times to no avail.

Following an increase in email, phone, and text requests for the polling location over the summer, last fall Dreiling opted to close the polling location and condensed two previous voting districts into one. The move meant that many of the voters requesting a more convenient location on campus actually saw their existing one moved even further across town.

“I think it’s fair to say that some of us are, at this point, a bit frustrated,” said Anniston Weber, a Hays resident. “Ultimately the petition represents a way that folks want their voices heard on this issue – just like we want our voices heard in our democracy, through better access at the ballot box.”

A recent report found that in Kansas, having more polling locations in a county has the highest correlation with voter turnout. Fewer voters per poll means a poll is less crowded, has shorter lines, and that voters have less average distance to travel. Additionally, turnout in Ellis County decreased by nearly 8% from the 2018 to the 2022 general election, one of the largest drops in the state’s 105 counties and a significantly greater decrease then the state’s average of 5%.

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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