Last week, Dodge City, Kansas — an iconic Wild West town (see: Gunsmoke) of 27,000 that is now 60 percent Latino — made national news because Ford County had moved the city's one polling location outside city limits, more than a mile from the nearest bus stop. Then on Thursday, Kansas election officials acknowledged that county officials had sent newly registered voters an official certificate directing them to the old polling location, a notification Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey acknowledged was "confusing." Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox was instructed to try and clean up the mess before the Nov. 6 election.
"I didn't know this could get worse, and it did: 'Hey, let's move the site and not tell new registrants where they are supposed to go,'" Johnny Dunlap, chairman of the Ford County Democratic Party, told The Associated Press. Dodge City officials noted pointedly that moving the polling location out of town was a county decision, not a city one, James Fallows says at The Atlantic, and the city has organized free bus service to the polling location. (Lyft has also offered free rides.)
"Among city and county leaders there's concern many of the stories are missing some of those details, like the fact Dodge City has had only one polling location for decades," reports local ABC affiliate KAKE. "They say voters are used to the crowds running an expected 13,000 plus voters through one polling site will create." The city had multiple polling locations until 2002, AP reports, when the Americans With Disabilities Act imposed new accessibility requirements. Other polling locations in Kansas serve an average of 1,200 voters.
Since the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013, 868 polling places were closed nationwide, according to a 2016 report from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The top election official in Kansas, Republican Kris Kobach, is also running for governor this year; he is the nation's foremost proponent of restrictive voter ID laws.