Ford County filed a fiery response Tuesday calling a lawsuit by the ACLU centered on voting access "a recipe for disaster" that is "filled with patronizing arguments."
The legal action brought by the ACLU last Friday asks the court to establish a polling site within the city limits of Dodge City.
The city's sole polling place was relocated after Unified School District 443 informed county clerk Deborah Cox in late August that construction at the Civic Center would start in October.
Cox identified a temporary location, the Western State Bank Expo Center.
Cox, who is named as the defendant in the case, wrote in the response filed Tuesday that the plaintiffs present "a wildly speculative theory that the temporary relocation of a polling place approximately 3.7 miles from its prior site will result in unspecified numbers of voters being unable to access the new venue due to poverty, lack of transportation, or other competing life or work obligations."
The ACLU denounced the location because there is no public transportation and drivers have to cross railroad tracks that can be blocked for up to 20 minutes. The organization also was concerned that the temporary site made it more difficult for Hispanic voters to access. Dodge City's population is 60 percent Hispanic.
According to the response, voters will have access to a free door-to-door bus service on Election Day. The service also will take riders to the Ford County Government Center for early in-person voting, and voters can send in their ballots by mail. Cox also denied any racial motivation in establishment of the temporary polling place.
She contends the lawsuit is groundless.
"Their claims appear to be comprised of speculation and bluster, and they crumble at the touch," the response read.
Cox also said making changes to polling locations "would be administratively impossible to effectuate, introduce hopeless confusion into the electorate and likely disenfranchise many of the same voters whose rights Plaintiffs claim to be protecting."
Ford County's response also refutes the ACLU's claim that low-income voters in particular may be affected.
"Plaintiffs seem to be projecting a concept that every low income citizen is simply too helpless to cast a ballot in this election," the response said. "It is insulting to the residents of Dodge City."
Cox also said in the response that she plans to add a second permanent polling location in Dodge City in 2019 or 2020.
Mark McCormick, spokesman for the ACLU of Kansas, said he hadn't yet seen Ford County's response.
U.S. Attorney for Kansas Stephen McAllister filed a notice in the case Tuesday indicating that at least one member of his staff will observe the Dodge City polling place on Election Day.
"To be clear, the U.S. Attorney’s office has not intervened in pending litigation nor is it taking any position regarding that litigation," McAllister said in a statement. "At this time we are simply taking a basic step to observe the election with the hope that all goes smoothly in Ford County, so that each and every voter’s constitutional right to vote is honored and fully protected.”
A hearing on the lawsuit will take place Thursday in federal court.