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.”
“This was not done with any racial intention at all,” Cox said during an interview in her office on Gunsmoke Street downtown.
On Friday, the ACLU sued Cox in an effort to open an additional voting site. The federal lawsuit seeks to force Cox to reopen the city’s previous polling site.
“We understand that there are people who believe voting is a privilege but we don’t. It is a right that must be fiercely protected. We can and must do better,” ACLU of Kansas director Micah Kubic said.