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.
The lawsuit will continue after the election. But for now, Crabtree made clear Cox can continue with the single, out-of-town polling place for the current election.
“For the court to insert itself into this process on the eve of the election — by ordering the reopening of the Civic Center either as the only polling location or a second polling location — likely would create more voter confusion than it might cure. The relief plaintiffs seek is not in the public’s interest,” Crabtree wrote.
The ACLU of Kansas, which spearheaded the lawsuit, said it was disappointed in the ruling. But the organization noted that Crabtree’s ruling doesn’t say the Expo Center location is good, only that it would be too difficult to change now.