Judge Refuses to Order New Dodge City Polling Site

(CN) – A Kansas county does not have to open a polling site in Dodge City because it would likely confuse voters, a federal judge ruled late Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree denied the American Civil Liberties Union’s motion to have the court order Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox to reopen a polling location within the city. Dodge City, with a Hispanic-majority population of more than 29,000, only has one voting location.

This undated photo provided by the Ford County Government Center in Dodge City, Kan., shows County Clerk Debbie Cox. Cox, who moved the only polling site in the historic Wild West town of Dodge City to a facility outside the city limits more than a mile from the nearest bus stop says it is not possible to add a second polling site for the upcoming election.(Ford County Government Center via AP)

Cox deemed it necessary to change the location from within the city to an expo center about half a mile south of the city’s southernmost border, citing road construction work near the town’s Civil Center, the only voting location used for the past two decades.

The road construction project near the Civic Center, which was slated to begin last month, has yet to begin. Cox had previously said that the county could not open a second polling site due to difficulties in finding poll workers.

The ACLU of Kansas asked that Cox be ordered to reopen the Civic Center as well as keep the new site open, arguing that the move made it more difficult to reach for lower income voters since the new site is not accessible by sidewalk and public transportation to the site does not exist.

Crabtree said reopening the old site so close to Election Day would only result in confusion for voters.

“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,” Crabtree wrote.

The lawsuit, brought forward by The League of Latin American Citizens and 18-year-old Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, will continue on the larger constitutional questions involving claims of voter suppression.

The ACLU of Kansas said that they were disappointed in the ruling noting that time was a major factor in the judge’s decision.

“Had voters learned of her decision sooner, our case may have prevailed,” said ACLU of Kansas Director Micah Kubic in a statement. “She can rest easy – for now – that she was able to run out the clock.”

Crabtree did address concern over the reaction Cox had to a letter the ACLU sent asking her to publicize a voter helpline. Cox, a Republican, forwarded the letter to Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office with the comment, “LOL.”

“And while the court must evaluate the fully-developed facts governing this claim on a later day, the court notes, for now, its concerns about Ms. Cox’s ‘LOL’ comment and questions whether it manifests a disregard for the ‘fundamental significance’ that our Constitution places on the right to vote,” Crabtree wrote.

Cox’s office did not immediately return a call for comments Friday.

News of the polling location’s move has motivated public and private entities to offer free rides to the new site. City buses will offer voters free rides to and from the Expo Center, rideshare company Lyft announced it would also offer free rides and the Kansas Democratic Party will also have volunteers in town to take voters to the polls.

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