Politics & Government

‘Impossible’: Both sides clash in court over adding second Dodge City voting site

Dodge City’s only polling place moved outside of town

(OCTOBER 25, 2018) -- Wichita Eagle reporter Jonathan Shorman shows where Dodge City voters will head on Election Day, and how far it is from town.
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(OCTOBER 25, 2018) -- Wichita Eagle reporter Jonathan Shorman shows where Dodge City voters will head on Election Day, and how far it is from town.

Opening a second Election Day polling place in Dodge City is impossible, an attorney for the county clerk at the center of a growing Kansas controversy over voting rights said Monday.

An 18-year-old Dodge City resident and a Latino civil rights group are suing Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox in an effort to force her to reopen the polling location used by Dodge City’s 13,000 registered voters before Cox moved voting to a site a half mile outside the city limits.

Attorneys for the resident, Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, and the League of United Latin American Citizens clashed with attorneys for Cox during a conference call in the case. With the Nov. 6 election approaching, Judge Daniel Crabtree decided to give both sides until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file written arguments.

“With all due respect, it is at this point humanly impossible to take the logistical steps necessary at this late stage” to open a second polling place, said Bradley Schlozman, an attorney for Cox.

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Schlozman said opening a second polling site would create massive confusion that would likely disenfranchise voters. He said it would require breaking state laws about providing notice of new voting locations and that computers would have to be reprogrammed.

Schlozman accused the American Civil Liberties Union, which is spearheading the lawsuit against Cox, of sitting on concerns about the polling place for a month. He noted that the polling place was officially moved in September but that the lawsuit was filed just last week.

Mark Johnson, an attorney for Rangel-Lopez and LULAC, said that the ACLU had previously been asking Cox to make changes rather than filing litigation.

And he noted that Cox had forwarded one letter from the ACLU asking her to publicize a voter help line to a state official with the comment “LOL.” That email from Cox was first reported by The Eagle.

“Laugh out loud. This is the attitude we received from Ms. Cox. If there’s a problem, it’s of her creation,” Johnson said.

Both sides indicated they would appeal if Crabtree rules against them, but Schlozman indicated Cox would appeal immediately in an effort to put a hold on the ruling.

Cox also wants the case moved from Kansas City, Kan., to Wichita because of the distance from Dodge City. Crabtree didn’t immediately rule on the motion.

Dodge City has received growing national attention since Cox’s decision to move the city’s single Election Day polling location, citing construction. There is no sidewalk or public transportation access to the new location, but the city has said it will offer free rides on Election Day.