Kansas to pay $1.4M in legal fees for Kris Kobach-backed lawsuit fail | Andrew Bahl/Topeka Capital-Journal

A federal judge approved a deal Wednesday that would see the state pay out over $1.4 million in legal fees to a group of attorneys, including the American Civil Liberties Union, stemming from a prolonged court fight over a controversial voting law favored by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson signed off on the agreement, which is less than half of the $3.3 million initially requested by the groups. The parties reached an agreement on the matter and presented it to the judge Friday. The costs come from a five-year legal battle over legislation originally passed in 2011 and championed by Kobach, which required an individual present their birth certificate or passport in order to register to vote. The law was struck down by a federal judge in 2018 and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the case last year. After its introduction, the requirement was blamed for the suspension of thousands of voter registration applications, as residents didn’t necessarily have the right documents to prove their citizenship.

Full Article: Kansas to pay $1.4M in legal fees for Kris Kobach-backed lawsuit fail

Kansas altered software to hide election records, lawsuit claims | Roxanna Hegeman/Associated Press

A judge is considering whether Kansas’ Republican secretary of state ran afoul of the state’s open records law by ordering the removal of an election database function that generates a statewide report showing which provisional ballots were not counted — a decision civil rights advocates say will have far-reaching implications for government transparency. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson heard arguments last week in a lawsuit filed by voting rights activist Davis Hammet, who is the president of Loud Light, a nonprofit that strives to increase voter turnout. The group helps voters fix any issues that led them to cast provisional ballots so that their votes are counted. Voters are given provisional ballots if they don’t appear to be registered, if they fail to present the required identification or if they are trying to vote at the wrong polling place. “We know there are deficiencies… where they aren’t counting votes that they should be counting and I think on some level there may be a resistance from the secretary of state to provide that data because it means we can highlight these deficiencies,” Hammet said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We can prove how there are votes that should have been counted that are not being counted.” That information can raise public awareness about problems in the elections system, leading to changes in state law. He noted the political outcry over the hundreds of discarded mail-in ballots statewide in the 2018 primary led to legislation a year later that requires election officials to notify voters before their mail-in ballots are thrown out because of problems with signatures.

Full Article: Lawsuit: Kansas altered software to hide election records

Kansas: Judge to decide if top election official can withhold records by altering software | Sherman Smith/The Kansas City Star

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the state’s open records law might as well not exist if Secretary of State Scott Schwab is allowed to keep public information hidden by reconfiguring software. Attorney Josh Pierson argued Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court for the release of provisional ballot data requested by Davis Hammet, a voter rights advocate who hoped to educate the public about why their ballots weren’t being counted. Hammet won a lawsuit last year over whether details about provisional ballots are a public record, and District Judge Teresa Watson ordered Schwab to turn the information over. The Republican secretary of state, whose agency oversees elections and manages a statewide voter database, instead ordered software engineers to remove the database function that allows the agency to produce the records. The secretary then denied Hammet’s request on the grounds that the records no longer exist. Schwab’s office told Hammet he could still get access to the data, but only if he paid $522 for the database vendor, Election Systems & Software, to retrieve it. Hammet sued again, with support from the ACLU. “This is gamesmanship,” Pierson said. “This was an attempt by the secretary to not have to produce these records that he litigated to not have to produce. He lost. He took matters into his own hands.”

Full Article: Schwab altered software to hide records, voting activist says. | The Kansas City Star

Kansas officials rack up $4M bill in defense of Kris Kobach’s baseless voter fraud law | Sherman Smith/The Kansas City Star

The American Civil Liberties Union and other attorneys want to be repaid more than $4 million for their five-year legal battle with Kansas officials who fought to restrict voter registration under the false pretense of widespread voter fraud. The proposed price tag adds a punctuation mark to the prolonged fight over former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s signature law, which required new voters to prove their citizenship before registering to vote. Kobach suffered defeat during an embarrassing 2018 trial in federal court, and stiffed taxpayers with the bills when he was twice held in contempt and ordered to go back to law school. Nadine Johnson, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said Kobach and others who were determined to defend an unconstitutional law were to blame for the cost. “That’s a choice they made,” Johnson said. “They can’t then come back and say that it’s our fault. They made that choice. You can’t throw up all these roadblocks, and then complain that we’re pushing through the roadblocks.”

Full Article: Kobach’s voter fraud bill costs Kansas millions | The Kansas City Star

Kansas: US Supreme Court won’t revive voting law requiring proof of citizenship | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court declined Monday to revive a Kansas law that required showing specific proof-of-citizenship documents before registering to vote, ending a fight that had continued for years. A trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit had declared it unconstitutional. It was championed by former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a Republican who had led the short-lived voter fraud commission President Trump formed to try to substantiate his unproven claims that millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States were voting. Kobach was defeated in his attempts for higher office in the state. The court did not give a reason for rejecting the appeal of the state’s new secretary of state, Scott Schwab. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) had opposed the effort asking for Supreme Court review. Kansas had been the only state to require a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport to register to vote. The state said it did not deter legitimate voters because it allowed additional kinds of identification forms.

Full Article: Supreme Court won?t revive Kansas voting law requiring proof of citizenship – The Washington Post

Kansas: More Kansans are asking for mail ballots while officials work to make polling places pandemic-safe | Jim McLean/Shawnee Mission Post

Facing the prospect of standing in line at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic, requests from Kansans for mail ballots continue to come in at a record clip. As of June 17, more than 142,000 Kansans had filed applications for advance ballots for the Aug. 4 primary. That far exceeds the 54,000 requested at the same point in the last presidential election year. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said the jump reflects worries about in-person voting, but he’s not willing to heed calls from state Democratic Party officials to switch to all-mail elections. That would create “massive voter confusion,” said Schwab, a Republican preparing to oversee his first statewide election. Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — conduct all elections by mail. Other states may do so this year to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases. Kansas Democrats conducted their May 2 presidential primary entirely by mail. They considered it such a success that State Party Chair Vicki Hiatt said Schwab should use a similar process for this year’s primary and general elections rather than putting “a whole lot of money into making provisions for safety.”

Kansas: Despite Trump’s attacks, Kansas voters request 2020 mail ballots at historic rate | Bryan Lowry and Sarah Ritter/The Wichita Eagle

Johnson County election workers spent Memorial Day weekend sending out roughly 380,000 applications for mail ballots — one to every registered voter in the state’s most populous county. Kansas has allowed voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason since 1996. But the unprecedented move by county officials reflects COVID-19’s impact on the mechanics and politics of voting in 2020. Their hope is to prevent long lines in August and November, as voters elect a new U.S. senator and other office holders amid the ongoing the pandemic. “Because of COVID-19, we’re very concerned about our voters and poll workers. So the secretary of state and county officials decided we wanted to encourage vote-by-mail, and in Kansas, we’re lucky to have that option,” said Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt. “And since we don’t know what the pandemic is going to look like in the fall, we decided to go ahead and mail out forms for both elections.” Election officials in Sedgwick County will be doing the same this week and plan on sending another round of applications in September. Douglas and Leavenworth Counties are also mailing applications to all voters, while election officials in other counties have sent postcards to voters explaining how to apply for a mail ballot.

Kansas: Johnson County will consider spending $1 million to update voting machinery to address COVID-19 concerns | Roxie Hammill/Shawnee Mission Post

County election officials are getting set to spend $1 million soon to add tabulation devices to its two-year-old voting machinery – a move election officials say is necessary because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. But the change also renders redundant the built-in tabulation function that was the star feature of the $10.6 million purchase in 2018. That year the county was first in the country to use the voting machine/tabulation combo that had just been developed by vendor Election Systems and Software, of Omaha. The existing machines will now basically become ballot markers instead. Voters who use them to make their choices will then walk their marked ballots over to a separate tabulator to be counted, said Connie Schmidt, who is election commissioner through this year’s ballots, after which the Secretary of State’s appointee Fred Sherman will take over. The plan is to swap out 240 of the voting machines with brand-new DS 200 tabulators, Schmidt said. But because they aren’t equal in price, the county will need to spend another $1,020,500. And it has to be done before the end of May, because that’s when special pricing expires from a previous group deal with Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties. All but about $35,000 may be reimbursed from federal funds.

Kansas: Elections move ahead, while virus changes game for candidates | Stephen Koranda/Hays Post

Tobias Wood is thinking twice about working at a polling place in Shawnee County this year. He’s done it since 2018, but now he’s practicing social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. He knows that might be difficult during elections, when he needs to handle people’s IDs and have voters sign in on a tablet. “We don’t have control over what people come in with,” he said. “That’s something that really scares me.” Kansas’ late primary — Aug. 3 — puts it in a less urgent position to either postpone it as Missouri and other states did, or go forward with fewer polling places like Wisconsin. It’s why Secretary of State Scott Schwab is avoiding major changes like rescheduling election dates. “You’ve got to be really careful because you’re going to create voter confusion if you move the day,” said Schwab, who hopes the virus will have largely run its course by August. “That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to avoid is voter confusion.”

Kansas: Counties’ websites may lack security against hackers | Associated Press

Many Kansas counties’websites may be at risk as they lack basic protocols that make it easier for hackers to impersonate websites in order to install malware or trick individuals into giving out their personal information. Out of 105 counties, only eight of them have websites ending in .gov, a domain extension only government officials can control, and 60 counties’ URLs start with “http” rather than the more secure “https.” Experts say it could be a serious concern for smaller governments during a time of increasing cyberattacks, KCUR-FM reported. Local governments have in recent years become frequent targets of ransomware attacks, where hackers hold data hostage in exchange for money.

Kansas: Elections chief’s security plan causes local unease | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas’ elections chief is pushing to make the state’s central voter registration database more secure by changing how counties tap into it, but some officials are nervous about what they see as a big project in a busy election year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab has told county election officials that he wants them to use dedicated tablets, laptops or computers not linked to their counties’ networks to access the state’s voter registration database. He says Kansas is getting $8 million in federal election security funds that could be used to cover the costs. Schwab, a Republican and former Kansas House member from the Kansas City area who became the state’s top elections official last year, contends such a setup will decrease the likelihood of foreign nationals, foreign governments or domestic hackers gaining access to voter registration records. His idea has bipartisan support. In September 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told officials in 21 states that their election systems had been targeted by hackers before the 2016 presidential election. Kansas wasn’t on the list, but Schwab said in an interview last week that “every area of government gets pinged thousands of times.”

Kansas: Democrats sue over Kansas delay in start of ‘vote anywhere’ | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas and national Democratic Party groups on Friday sued the Republican official who oversees the state’s elections, accusing him of violating voters’ rights by delaying the implementation of a law designed to make voting on Election Day more convenient. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Topeka after Secretary of State Scott Schwab said his office would need another year to draft regulations needed for counties to take advantage of a 2019 state “vote anywhere” law. The law permits counties to allow voters to cast their ballots at any polling place within their borders on Election Day, rather than only at a single site. Some officials in Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city, Wichita, believe it is ready to allow voters to choose their polling sites. They note that it has allowed voters to cast their ballots in advance at multiple locations for more than a decade, with the county’s entire electronic voter registration database accessible to workers at each one. It also deployed new voting machines in 2017 that allow a “vote anywhere” system.

Kansas: Senate panel considers bill requiring paper ballots in Kansas elections | Sydney Hoover/The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill that would require all Kansas counties to use paper ballots to count votes. Ballots would have several requirements, including the voter’s signature. Votes would be counted by hand or using vote-tabulating equipment that would tally the paper ballot. “At one time, everything was paper ballots, but now Kansas currently has a mix,” said Sen. Richard Hildebrand, R-Baxter Springs. “Once you cast your ballot, you are up to whatever the machine says you voted without the verification from the voter.” Hildebrand said the bill would eliminate the chance of issues such as those during the Iowa caucuses, where a faulty mobile application failed to transmit votes and caused a delay in results.

Kansas: County, lawmakers battle to make voting easier this year | Dion Lefler/The Wichita Eagle

Sedgwick County is turning to the state Legislature to try to force Secretary of State Scott Schwab to let county voters choose their own polling place in this year’s upcoming elections. A Republican lawmaker has agreed to introduce a bill to let the County Commission change the voting procedure without Schwabb’s blessing. Meanwhile, the top Senate Democrat says he may take Schwab to court in an effort to make him comply with a law passed last year. The law at issue would replace traditional polling places with “voting centers” around the community. Any voter could vote at any voting center, instead of having to go to an assigned polling place on election day. Commissioners and legislators say they think Schwab has dragged his feet on implementing the law. “I’m very frustrated over this thing,” said county Commissioner Jim Howell. “We passed this law last year, we pushed it forward late in the (legislative) session because we wanted to have this ready for the 2020 elections.” “Now here we are eight or nine months later and he hasn’t written any rules and regulations yet. Why?” Schwab says he supports the new law, but crafting the regulations and ensuring necessary cybersecurity precautions is a complicated process that won’t be done in time for this year’s presidential and Senate elections.

Kansas: State won’t be ready to implement vote center law for 2020 elections | Tim Carpenter /The Topeka Capital-Journal

Secretary of State Scott Schwab predicted Tuesday regulations necessary to implement a state law allowing Kansans to vote at the polling station of their choice won’t be completed in time for the August or November elections in 2020. Schwab told members of the Senate’s election committee that technical considerations, including cellphone coverage problems, in the state’s 105 counties made the process of drafting rules complex. The program won’t be finalized until 2021, he said. The voting reform bill signed last year by Gov. Laura Kelly was inspired by a proposal from Sedgwick County officials. “They are not going to be ready by this year simply because we don’t want to screw up,” the secretary of state said. “If we rushed it through for this year, I promise you there would be a lot of mistakes.”

Kansas: Election Officials Say They’re On Guard For Hackers Messing With Your 2020 Vote | Stephen Koranda/HPPR

Kansas and federal election officials say they know the 2020 election could come under attack from foreign governments or rogue hackers. They also insist they’re braced to guard against efforts to tamper with voting. In recent elections, Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in more than 20 states and successfully accessed voter registration data in Illinois. The top election official in Kansas assumes  the state’s voting system could be next. “We got a U.S. Senate seat up for election, so that even makes it more of a target,” Republican Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said. “We’re not going to assume we’re safe, even though we are right now.” Federal law enforcement officials warn that foreign governments will try to undermine the results and influence public sentiment. “Russia, China, Iran and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” read a joint statement from the FBI and other federal security officials last month.

Kansas: Cyberattacks vandalized Kansas county websites in August, exposing security weaknesses | Jonathan Shorman/The Wichita Eagle

Cyberattacks crippled the websites of about a dozen Kansas counties in early August — replacing their homepages with cryptic messages and an image of Mecca. One county, which was conducting an election during the assault, decided against posting results online. The attacks did not affect vote counting but meant citizens didn’t have access to normal government information, such as contacts for local agencies, for several hours. The hacks defaced websites, but did not affect other systems. It does not appear the hacker or hackers took data hostage, as has happened elsewhere in the country. State officials don’t think the hacking was connected to the August primary election. But the attacks — not widely known until now — showcased the cyber vulnerabilities of local governments in Kansas. And they took place as online threats are rising.

Kansas: Former Johnson County Election Commissioner’s leadership of federal agency draws scrutiny | Jay Senter/Shawnee Mission Post

The former Johnson County Election Commissioner who left a string of financial and human resources scandals in his wake here after he accepted an appointment with the federal Election Assistance Commission is now drawing scrutiny for his direction of that agency. A lengthy investigative piece published by POLITICO this month details concerns with Brian Newby’s leadership of the EAC, which is charged with helping local voting operations across the country adhere to the requirements of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. According to the report, elections officials and federal employees have been disheartened by actions from Newby that have stymied efforts to address election security issues.

Kansas: With Kris Kobach Out Of Office, His Voting Policies Could Wither In Kansas | KMUW

Former Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach rewrote the rules for voting in Kansas. Laws he pushed for required voters to show citizenship papers to register and ID at the polls. He secured prosecutorial powers for his office. Kobach’s term only ended a couple weeks ago, but some cornerstones of his legacy are already starting to crumble. A federal court knocked down the state’s voter registration rule last summer. Interstate Crosscheck, a voter records system that Kobach said could help states maintain their voter rolls and spot double voting, is currently on hold and could be abandoned. The new secretary of state wants to take the spotlight off the office. Republican Scott Schwab was sworn in on Jan. 14 and quickly backed one significant change.

Kansas: Judge: Kansas’ Largest County Violated Law By Not Specifying Rejected Ballots | Associated Press

A judge has ruled that election officials in Kansas’ largest county violated open records law by refusing to provide names of hundreds of people whose provisional ballots were not counted in last August’s primary. Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of 898 people whose ballots were thrown out and for justification on why they didn’t count. Johnson County election commissioner Ronnie Metsker rejected Hammet’s request, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to join Hammet in a lawsuit. District Judge David Hauber ruled in Hammet’s favor on Thursday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Metzger didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.

Kansas: Court orders elections officer to disclose records on dismissed ballots | The Hutchinson News

A Johnson County District Court judge ruled Thursday in favor of a voting rights advocate seeking records about hundreds of ballots that were tossed in the August primary. Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of individuals who cast provisional ballots and the justification for why they didn’t count. His request was rejected by the Johnson County election commissioner, Ronnie Metsker. The American Civil Liberties Union supported Hammet in a lawsuit challenging the lack of transparency. District Judge David Hauber ruled the refusal to provide names was a violation of the Kansas Open Records Act.”Now elections officials know that whenever they throw out a ballot people will know, and so they need to be really strict about standards,” Hammet said.

Kansas: State drops Kris Kobach’s appeal of contempt ruling, ACLU accepts $20,000 for legal fees | The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas attorney general said Tuesday the state agreed to drop former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s appeal of a federal court judge’s contempt order in exchange for the American Civil Liberties Union accepting only $20,000 for attorney fees and expenses. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the negotiated deal reduced from $26,200 the state’s obligation to the ACLU. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson had found Kobach in contempt of court while he was serving as secretary of state in Kansas. Robinson sanctioned Kobach for failure to comply with her instructions. Mediation involving ACLU lawyers and the attorney general’s office Jan. 25 also led to dismissal of Kobach’s appeal of the contempt ruling. It didn’t alter status of the state’s appeal of Robinson’s underlying election law decision, which found Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship statute unconstitutional.

Kansas: Senate bill allows same-day registration, voting in Kansas elections | McPherson Sentinel

A bipartisan group Kansas senators endorsed a bill abandoning a state law requiring people to register at least three weeks in advance of an election to be eligible to vote. Contents of Senate Bill 43 would allow Kansans residents to register to vote and cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. Under current law, voters must be registered by the 21st day before the election. For example, the 2018 deadline for voter registration was July 17 for the primary conducted Aug. 7. In the Nov. 6 general election, the registration deadline was Oct. 16.

Kansas: With Kobach gone, bills target his legacy of prosecuting vote fraud | The Wichita Eagle

A big piece of Kris Kobach’s legacy appears to be on its way out as Kansas lawmakers move forward on parallel tracks to repeal the authority of the secretary of state to prosecute election crimes. The House Judiciary Committee is considering one bill to do that, introduced by Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita. The House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice is considering a slightly different version requested by Attorney General Derek Schmidt last week. Either would revoke the authority the secretary of state now has to take people to court if they violate laws related to voting. Kobach, a lawyer, fought for years to get that authority when he served in the post, finally winning the battle in 2015. He was convinced that it held the key to stop what he believed was widespread fraudulent voting by illegal immigrants.

Kansas: Kobach grand jury process to begin next week in Douglas County | Lawrence Journal-World

Grand jury proceedings to investigate former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office will begin next week in Douglas County District Court, according to the judge presiding over them. Judge Kay Huff said that the proceedings would begin in her courtroom on Jan. 22, a Tuesday, following Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. Huff mentioned the grand jury during a hearing for a murder trial she had been scheduled to preside over this week, noting that the grand jury matter was a priority that could not be moved despite other proceedings in her courtroom.

Kansas: Ford County pays more than $70,000 to firm hired in Kansas voting rights case | Topeka Capital Journal

Ford County has paid more than $70,000 in legal fees to the firm representing County Clerk Debbie Cox, who was sued over voting access in one of the state’s few majority-minority cities. In October and November, the county paid $71,481 to the Hinkle Law Firm, which is based in Wichita, a document obtained through an open records request indicates. The money comes from the county’s general fund, Cox said. The ACLU sued Cox in late October after she moved Dodge City’s sole voting location outside city limits because the original location was to undergo construction. The lawsuit alleged that the move disenfranchised voters and in particular, the Hispanic population, who make up about 60 percent of the town.

Kansas: Judge troubled by clerk’s ‘LOL’ remark, but won’t order another Dodge City polling site | The Wichita Eagle

A southwest Kansas county clerk doesn’t have to open a second polling site in Dodge City, a federal judge ruled on Thursday. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree said forcing Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox to open an additional polling location in Dodge City so close to the Nov. 6 election would not be in the public’s interest. But Crabtree said he is troubled by Cox’s reaction to an American Civil Liberties Union letter, which Cox forwarded last week to a state official with the comment “LOL.” Cox moved the city’s only polling place from a central location in town, the Civic Center, to the Expo Center half a mile outside the city limits this fall. The new location is not accessible via sidewalk and there is no regular public transportation there, though the city has said it will provide rides to voters. The League of United Latin American Citizens and 18-year-old first-time voter Alejandro Rangel-Lopez had sued Cox in an effort to force her to open a second polling location.

Kansas: Lawyers clash over adding second Dodge City voting site | The Wichita Eagle

Opening a second Election Day polling place in Dodge City is impossible, an attorney for the county clerk at the center of a growing Kansas controversy over voting rights said Monday. An 18-year-old Dodge City resident and a Latino civil rights group are suing Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox in an effort to force her to reopen the polling location used by Dodge City’s 13,000 registered voters before Cox moved voting to a site a half mile outside the city limits. Attorneys for the resident, Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, and the League of United Latin American Citizens clashed with attorneys for Cox during a conference call in the case. With the Nov. 6 election approaching, Judge Daniel Crabtree decided to give both sides until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file written arguments.

Kansas: Dodge City polling place debacle: voter suppression or incompetence? | The Guardian

It’s true that if Alejandro Rangel wants to vote on election day, he has to get out of Dodge. But that is not the whole story. Befitting its status as an iconic city of the American West with a reputation built around legendary outlaws and mythical lawmen, Dodge City is now caught in the middle of a political gunfight that has swiftly generated its own half-truths and spiraled into a national controversy. The Democrats drew first, pointing out that the only place to vote in Dodge City on election day is being moved two and a half miles from the city center to an exhibition hall in what amounts to an urban wilderness. The move, they said, will further disenfranchise Latinos who make up a majority of the city’s residents but turn out to vote in very low numbers and have no one from their community elected to the city or county commissions.

Kansas: Dodge City polling place move ignites voter access fears | The Wichita Eagle

After the ACLU objected to Dodge City’s single, out-of-town polling place, the local official in charge of elections forwarded to the state an ACLU letter asking her to publicize a voter help line. “LOL,” she wrote in an email to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office. As Election Day approaches, concerns are being raised in Kansas over voting rights and access to the polls. The movement and elimination of some polling places is sparking fears that casting a ballot may be more difficult for some this year. Nowhere are worries greater than in Dodge City, where residents must leave town if they want to vote on Election Day. The city has drawn national scrutiny over voting rights since Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox — citing construction — moved its only polling location to a building south of the city limits. The site can’t be reached by sidewalks and is separated from much of the city by train tracks. Sixty percent of the town’s residents are Hispanic. “I don’t hate Debbie Cox. I don’t want anything against her. I just want her to do her job properly” and promote voter turnout, said Alejandro Rangel, who plans to cast the first ballot of his life on Nov. 6 after turning 18 on Oct. 29. Cox said she moved the polling location out of a concern for safety. And she said she didn’t mean anything when she wrote “LOL.”