Judge denies request to open polling location in majority-Hispanic town in Kansas

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Judge denies request to open polling location in majority-Hispanic town in Kansas

A judge in Kansas has ruled against an effort led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to force county officials to open a new polling place with just days before the midterm election.

NBC News reported that U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree denied the ACLU’s request for a temporary court order that would have forced Ford County, Kan., to open a second polling location for the 13,000 residents of Dodge City after the city’s only voting location was moved in September.

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The new location is outside city limits and more than a mile from the nearest bus stop, according to NBC News. The ACLU had been seeking an order requiring the county to keep both the new and old location at Dodge City’s civic center, open during next week’s 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 judge, an Obama appointee, wrote.

The ACLU said Thursday that it was “disappointed” in the judge’s decision, and rebuked County Clerk Debbie Cox for the late decision to move the polling place.

“[T]his is just a portion of a larger, continuing case and while we may have lost a round, our fight continues,” ACLU Kansas said.

“Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox may not be inconvenienced by moving the polling place, but the fact remains that thousands of voters – and all of those who have had to spring into action to try and mitigate the harm her decision created – will be.”

ACLU officials said last week upon filing the lawsuit that the effort was about protecting the rights of Hispanic voters, arguing they were disproportionately hurt by the move of the polling site.

Hispanic Kansans make up about 60 percent of Dodge City’s population. 

“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 last week.

Dodge City’s Mayor Kent Smoll added on Facebook that the city will shuttle voters to the new polling location on Election Day.

“Our citizen’s accessibility to exercising their most fundamental right of voting is our utmost concern,” he said.

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