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.
Rangel, a high school student voting in his first election, said that casting a ballot on election day has never been easy in Dodge City, which has long had a single polling place for more than 13,000 registered voters, and now it will be harder. Both his parents, who were born in Mexico, work long shifts at the beef slaughterhouses that brought Latino migrants to the city and underpin its prosperity.
“My father waited up to two hours to vote in the last election because the lines were so long. Now they’ve moved it out of town, it’s out of the way. If you don’t have a car you have to get a bus.,” he said.
Rangel suspects the system is being manipulated to perpetuate the power of a shrinking white minority of Republicans in a city that is now 60% Latino with a rising number of Somali and Congolese immigrants. “It’s either deliberate suppression or gross incompetence,” he said.