The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday unleashed a thunderous condemnation of arguments made by Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox in her request to dismiss a federal lawsuit over voter access in Dodge City.
Cox’s decision to move the town’s only polling location to a spot just outside of city limits placed her and the community’s 13,000 registered voters under a microscope on Election Day, which recorded improved turnout amid a flurry of efforts to mobilize the electorate.
The controversy was spiked with racial themes as the ACLU pointed to an unrepresented, mostly Hispanic population and lack of public transportation to the new location.
Bradley Schlozman, the Wichita-based attorney representing Cox, said the ACLU’s “condescension underlying this point is staggering.” He accused the ACLU of generalizing statistics to stoke criticism.
“Plaintiffs seem to be projecting a concept that every low-income citizen is simply too helpless to cast a ballot in this election,” he wrote in court documents filed on Friday. “It is as implausible as it is insulting to the residents of Dodge City.”
He asked the court to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit, arguing that the 45-minute wait to vote on Election Day was insignificant and complaints moot because Cox has declared her intention to open a second polling location by 2020.
The clerk invited criticism in the weeks before the election by laughing at ACLU objections to her late-September change of venue, which coincided with mailers directing voters to the wrong location, and explaining the move was necessary to avoid a construction project that didn’t materialize.
ACLU Kansas legal director Lauren Bonds said she intends to file a response in early December.
“We find it incredibly tone deaf for a white elected official to tell her Hispanic constituents that their pleas for justice are patronizing,” Bonds said.
Cox may want to pretend there is “no brown or white part of Dodge City,” Bonds said, “or that economic status doesn’t make voting prohibitive when coupled with an illogically placed polling site,” but “such realities do exist.”
Schlozman described the inconvenience of finding the new polling location as minor, noting that the town is so small it only takes 12 minutes to drive from end to end. He also rejected the notion that passing trains presented a barrier because they could be easily circumvented by driving just five minutes away to reach an overpass.
Although Kansas law gives Cox sole discretion in carrying out the election, Schlozman said, the ACLU apparently wants to micromanage the process.
The ACLU “grossly distorted reality by painting Dodge City as a bleak community of uneducated and helpless residents,” Schlozman said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”