During the 2018 Midterm elections, the one polling location in Dodge City, Kansas in the United States was moved outside of city limits, fostering voter disentrancement amongst the majority Latinx community.
Problems and Purpose:
Registered voters of Dodge City, Kansas in the United States during the 2018 Midterm Elections were unable to vote in their town. This was a decision made by the county clerk. This soon became national news, portrayed as voter disenfranchisement as transportation is limited to many members of the population, particularly minority voters. After gaining national recognition, advocacy groups and community supporters organized resources to ensure equal opportunity for the right to vote for registered residents. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union, took legal action against the county to prevent this practice from continuing .
Background History and Context:
In recent years, voter suppression has been a widely debated subject across in Kansas. With the passage of the SAFE ACT in 2011, Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, implemented new voter ID requirements that were largely viewed as a means to suppress the voting rights of minority populations (requirements since struck down by U.S. District Court in Kansas City).
The town of Dodge City, Kansas has a majority Latinx population. The Republican candidate for Governor in Kansas was Kris Kobach. At the time, he was the incumbent Secretary of State for Kansas (who happens to also be the chief election officer in the state). In addition to Secretary of State, Kobach implementing strong voter ID regulations, which were struck down in federal court, Kobach was found in contempt of court for failing to provide voter registration to 18,000 qualified applicants. Apart from his duties as Secretary, Kobach served as Vice Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity (Voter Fraud Commission). This controversial commission was seen by many in the United States as an attempt to further implement voter suppression in the United States. Additionally, Kobach is a strong advocate for strict immigration laws.
In response to an informational email sent from the American Civil Liberties Union notifying her of a new voter registration hotline and suggesting she share it with voters, Ford County clerk, Debbie Cox, forwarded the email to state Elections Director, Brian Caskey, saying, “LOL” .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities:
Resources were organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, League of United Latin American Citizens, voting rights advocates, ordinary citizens, Voto Latino, and Dodge City.
Participant Recruitment and Selection:
Participation for this event was voluntary self-selection. In total, there were around 600 persons who volunteered . Participants were from Dodge City, as well as other counties in Kansas and nearby states. No participant was excluded from participating. All volunteers were motivated on their own terms to assist in providing resources to the voters of Dodge City. No participatory discussions were involved with the county’s decision to relocate the polling place.
Methods and Tools Used:
Involvement by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas initially was focused on challenging Ford County to open additional polling locations for the election. As elections neared and the issue was still be challenged in court, their efforts shifted to focus on the systemic issue and preventing this case from happening in future elections .
Community members inundated local officials offices with phone calls protesting the moving of the poll. Advocacy volunteers spread their support through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In addition, volunteers spontaneously gathered together on election day, standing on street corners offering rides to voters.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation:
The media played a large role in influencing participation in this event. Had this story not been published by media outlets, it may never have occurred. The timeline of this case spans from September of 2018 through November of 2018.
In September 2018, Debbie Cox notified voters of Dodge City, KS that the polling location for the 2018 Midterm Elections was moved outside of the city. Citing that 59% of the population identify as Latinx and that a majority of these residents are factory workers utilizing public transportation and that the nearest bus stop to travel to the new polling site was a mile away from the factory, the ACLU of Kansas argued that the new polling location generated voter disenfranchisement. Following this, the ACLU of Kansas continued to attempt to hold conversations with Debbie Cox to open additional polling locations. Following limited engagement by Debbie Cox, the ACLU of Kansas filed a restraining order against Ford County to prevent this move. This was denied. An additional lawsuit was filed against Ford County to address the systemic issue of voter disenfranchisement in future elections. ACLU of Kansas was acting on behalf of League of United Latin American Citizens .
Other participants (approximately 600) volunteered to come to Dodge City to provide rides to voters without transportation. Voto Latino also to provide rides through Lyft. In addition, city offices were inundated by calls protesting the county’s actions . In response to the county’s decision, the city also participated in this event providing school buses to transport voters to the
polling location .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects:
Through the efforts of advocacy groups and community supporters, all voters in Dodge City had equal opportunity to participate in the election. In 2019, The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas filed to dismiss lawsuits they had previously filed against Debbie Cox and Ford County, after Debbie Cox announced that there will be two polling locations in Dodge City for all future elections. Additionally, it was announced that “she [Debbie Cox] would add temporary bus stops in front of polling locations.”  Nationally, this case brings attention to the continued practice of voter disenfranchisement in the United States. It can be noted that although there was a rise in voter turnout in Dodge City during this election, the increase was minimal compared to other counties in Kansas . No compromise was offered by Ford County during this election. However, public participation from a national front has influenced the county to address the systemic issue of voter disenfranchisement in future elections.
Analysis and Lessons Learned:
After the events, it was announced that Ford County will open two polling locations for future elections . Voter disenfranchisement continues to be prevalent in communities across the United States. With the help of organizations such as the ACLU, communities will be able to combat this issue to increase voter rights.
In the end, voter turnout in Dodge City increased during the 2018 Midterm Election, however, this increase was less comparative to the increase in voter turnout in other counties in Kansas during this election .
This case raises awareness that voter disenfranchisement is present in the United States and how easily this could have been brushed off in a rural community without the participation of public organizations. This is harmful to the democracy of the United States as diversity of culture and minority populations continue to grow.
 Alsup, D., Chavez, N., Meilhan, P. (2018). Their only polling place was moved outside the city. A lawsuit opposed the change, but a judge says it’s too late. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/02/politics/kansas-dodge-city-polling-site-lawsuit/index.html
 ACLU Kansas. (2019). The Dodge City poll: A timeline. Retrieved from https://www.aclukansas.org/en/dodge-city-poll-timeline
 KWCH. (2018). Judge dismisses lawsuit over Dodge City polling site. Retrieved from https://www.kwch.com/content/news/Dodge-City-to-have-two-polling-places-504741251.html
 Hegeman, R. (2018). New voters in Dodge City, Kan., given wrong polling location. Associated Press. Retrieved from https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/10/25/new-voters-in dodge-city-kan-given-wrong-polling-location/
 Lefer, D. (2018). In Dodge City, voter complaints are few at the one polling place outside town. The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved from https://www.kansas.com/news/politics government/election/article221191020.html
 Moore, K. (2018) Ford County sees slight uptick in voter turnout amid Dodge City polling location controversy. The Topeka Capitol-Journal. Retrieved from
The first version of this case entry was written by Michael Webb, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.