Reporters Barred Entry To Dodge City's Sole Polling Location

Nov 6, 2018

Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox moved Dodge City's only polling place from the Civic Center, pictured above, to the Western State Bank Expo Center, outside of town.
Credit Google Street View

The Ford County clerk’s office prohibited reporters from entering the Dodge City’s sole polling site today.   

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, media wasn’t allowed to take photos or video in the Western State Bank Expo Center.

As reported previously by the Kansas News Service, in September after the summer primary, Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox moved the town’s only polling location to the Expo Center, a building south of the city limits, citing concerns about construction at the Civic Center, the old site. The Expo Center isn't accessible by sidewalks. Train tracks separate it from much of the city.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox, stating the single polling site placed an undue burden on the residents of the city. The ACLU requested that the original polling site, the Civic Center, be reopened to voters.

Additionally, the ACLU says Cox sent out a flyer reminding registered voters about Election Day that listed the wrong address for the city’s one polling place.

But U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled against that request last week saying there wasn't enough time to open a new polling site.  Crabtree also ruled that the ACLU did not provide sufficient evidence that having a single polling location placed an undue burden on the residents of the city.  

The Western State Bank Expo Center in Dodge City.
Credit Ford County / fordcounty.net

According to the Topeka Capital Journal, Bradley Schlozman, the attorney representing Cox in the ACLU lawsuit, said of barring access to media at the Expo Center,“This is the election and that’s Kansas’s state law.”

Max Kautsch, an attorney for the Kansas Press Association and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters said, “That’s insane.”

Kautsch, an attorney for the Kansas Press Association and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, emailed Cox, saying barring access would violate his clients’ first amendment rights.

Schlozman also pointed to a state statute that reads “the election board of each polling place ‘shall have control of its voting place and election procedure under the sole supervision of the secretary of state, county and deputy county election officers and the supervising judge.’”

Kautsch said while the government does have an interest in protecting voting places, it has to be balanced with rights laid out in the first amendment.