The Slatest

A Polling Site in Kansas Is Literally Getting Out of Dodge (Which Will Make It Harder for Hispanics in Dodge to Vote)

A two-story intersection in a well-landscaped old-timey downtown.
Downtown Dodge City, Kansas.
Gerald B. Keane/Wikimedia Commons

The Associated Press has a story out of Dodge City, Kansas that seems funny at first and then turns into a solid 2018-style bummer. Here’s the headline:

Iconic Dodge City Moves Its Only Polling Place Outside Town

Ha ha, that polling location got the hell out of Dodge, a commonly known phrase whose exact origins appear to be unclear but are thought to be connected to the propensity of protagonists in the long-running, Dodge City–set radio and television series Gunsmoke to tell bad guys that they’d better leave town. Ha!

But less humorously:

Access to the ballot box in November will be more difficult for some people in Dodge City, where Hispanics now make up 60 percent of its population … the city located 160 miles (257 kilometers) west of Wichita has only one polling site for its 27,000 residents. Since 2002, the lone site was at the civic center just blocks from the local country club — in the wealthy, white part of town. For this November’s election, local officials have moved it outside the city limits to a facility more than a mile from the nearest bus stop, citing road construction that blocked the previous site.

Kansas Democrats and the ACLU have complained that the move will have the effect of suppressing votes in a minority-majority area; the ACLU says that, even before it was made more difficult to reach, Dodge City’s single polling site served more than 13,000 voters while others in the state serve an average of 1,200.*

The office of Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—who is nationally notorious for his involvement in efforts to limit voting access on the basis of dubious claims about illegal voting—says that there is nothing unusual or discriminatory about the relocation of the site.

Correction, Oct. 19, 2018: This piece originally misstated that Dodge City’s single polling site served 12,000 voters. It actually serves more than 13,000.