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.
“Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox is using her constituents tax dollars to pay her lawyer rather than expand their access to voting,” said ACLU interim executive director Lauren Bonds. “Cox has repeatedly argued that Ford County couldn’t afford to open additional polling locations but it seems to us that $70,000 could easily cover the costs associated with additional poll workers and materials.”
Just days before the midterm election, a federal judge denied the ACLU’s request to keep the original site and the new location open as polling places.
However the lawsuit remains unresolved. While Cox said she intends to have a second location by 2020, the ACLU contends she hasn’t fully committed to it.