FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
OVERLAND PARK, KS - Though we’re disappointed by Judge Crabtree’s ruling this evening for our plaintiffs, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Alejandro Rangel-Lopez as well as for the registered voters in Dodge City, we’re also encouraged by much of the Judge’s ruling and hopeful about our prospects as our case moves forward.
We should say at the onset that this is just a portion of a larger, continuing case, and while we may have lost a round, our fight continues. Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox may not be inconvenienced by moving the polling place, but the fact remains that thousands of voters – and all of those who have had to spring into action to try and mitigate the harm her decision created – will be.
But as for tonight’s ruling, Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox’s late decision and notice to voters left little room for the court to issue injunctive relief. Had voters learned of her decision sooner, our case may have prevailed. She can rest easy -- for now -- that she was able to run out the clock. We’re all left to wonder, however, what might have been accomplished had she merely chosen to work with us and with our clients.
Second, nowhere in the ruling does the Judge say that the Expo Center site is a good one -- only that it is too difficult to change at this point.
Third, the court also acknowledged that this situation was virtually all of her own creation – from her unilateral decision to move the voting location to her mailing the wrong address to several hundred first-time voters.
But perhaps most important was Judge Crabtree’s expressed concern about Ms. Cox’s conduct. He says: “The court is troubled by Ms. Cox’s reaction to the ACLU’s October 19 letter – one that offered to provide voter assistance in Ford County. Ms. Cox conceded she never responded to the letter. Instead, she forwarded the letter to the Sec. of State’s office with her “laugh out loud' comment.
“[Ms. Cox] tried to explain her response merely as venting her frustration from earlier interactions with the ACLU’s volunteers during the August primary election. But her testimony about the request made by the ACLU’s letter makes it appear that she didn’t read its contents."
He concludes that passage with this: "And while the court must evaluate the fully-developed facts governing this claim on a later day, the court notes, for now, its concerns about Ms. Cox’s 'LOL' comment and questions whether it manifests a disregard for the 'fundamental significance' that our Constitution places on the right to vote."
It seems clear to us from his words in the decision that our case is moving in the right direction.
We believe that Dodge City voters will get another polling place since, as one of our attorney’s pointed out, one polling station for 13,000 voters in Dodge City, but three polling places for 1,300 people for the rest of Ford County simply makes no sense.
Our clients will get the relief they seek – eventually. Again, this is a small part of a larger action we’ve undertaken.
We’ll close by saying that many people in the media have asked a particular question again and again: if Dodge City voters were so upset about having a single voting place, why did it take 20 years for this case to wend its way into court?
These cases aren’t easy and addressing them takes not only the recognition but also the requisite courage. In this case, it took a courageous 18-year-old to stand up and fight back. Not everyone is willing – or able – to do that.
Just because someone hasn’t called out an injustice, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
But now that this has been identified in Dodge City, you can rest assured that we won’t allow it to continue.
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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.