FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
OVERLAND PARK, KS - We commend Dodge City Mayor Kent Smoll for his efforts to ensure that citizens there wanting to vote can actually cast a ballot.
In his recent Facebook post, Smoll discussed securing election-day bus service, steering voters to the government office downtown, promoting advance voting and offering city staff to the county elections office. Kudos to him. With city staff volunteering, County Clerk Debbie Cox should now have sufficient staffing for the second polling place LULAC and Hispanic voters have requested.
However, additional bus service and increased staffing weren’t central issues in this case. Unnecessary voting barriers were the central concern. Bus rides only partially address some of the symptoms of the systematic voter suppression our clients have targeted in their lawsuit.
Smoll said, “There have been no previous complaints received from our citizens regarding the existence of a single polling location located inside of the City.”
But the ACLU of Kansas has heard complaints for more than a year, and while the Dodge City government may not have fielded any complaints, County Clerk Cox cannot make the same claim. Citizens reached out to us last fall after finding Cox unwilling to engage them.
Her unwillingness to help is reflected in her decision to fight in court rather than to find ways to open a second voting site (the school district has offered several more of its buildings) after she’d again let voters down by sending them the wrong address for the city’s lone polling place.
Worse, her attorney Brad Scholzman is one of the nation’s foremost voter suppression advocates. As Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in President George W. Bush’s administration, Scholzman once said he wanted to “gerrymander all of those crazy libs right out of the [voting] section.” Scholzman also signed off on the preclearance of Georgia's restrictive voter ID law. He eventually resigned.
In this light, Cox’s actions now seem less like an innocent oversight and more like aspirational policy.
She has yet to issue a statement, an explanation, an acknowledgment or an apology to Dodge City voters for the flyer mistake or for the decision to move the voting site. We still contend there were no legitimate reasons to abandon the Civic Center. There are events scheduled there during election week.
Smoll offered tacit acknowledgment of Dodge City’s voter access problem in his Facebook post, specifically saying the City wanted further conversation about adding a polling place.
We concur. The responsibility remains where it always has been, with County Clerk Debbie Cox.
Dodge City residents need convenient poll access, not remedies for Cox’s manufactured crisis nor excuses for her mistakes.
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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.