If the residents of Dodge City, Kansas want to vote on election day, they’ll have to travel outside city limits to a polling place that’s located more than a mile away from the nearest bus stop, the Associated Press reported.
The town, which the AP calls an “iconic Wild West town,” was once a destination for cowboys and hunters who frequented its Long Branch Saloon. Now, however, it’s home to many immigrants, who moved to the town after two large meatpacking plants opened there in recent years.
Dodge City, according to Johnny Dunlap, the chairman of the Ford County Democratic Party, who spoke to the AP, is one of the only majority minority cities in Kansas. Since 2002, it reportedly has had just a single polling place, which was located in the wealthiest, whitest part of the town.
“That is terrible,” Dunlap told the AP of the sole polling site’s former location in a white neighborhood. “What that has contributed to is a way below average Hispanic turnout in voting in Dodge City.”
As the AP noted in its story on Thursday, Hispanic turnout in non-presidential elections election years in the county is just 17 percent. For comparison, 61 percent of white voters reportedly turned out to vote in Ford County during the last midterm elections in 2014.
Hispanic turnout in Dodge City was already below the national average turnout rate of 27 percent among Latino voters in 2014, and this year, the difficulty of getting to the sole available polling place could make that number fall even further.
The sole polling site serves more than 13,000 voters in the Dodge City area, compared to an average of 1,200 voters per polling site at other locations, executive director of the ACLU in Kansas Micah Kubic told the AP.
The low turnout and likely further vote suppression could have a major effect on the closely watched gubernatorial election in the state, where Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is notorious for hating immigrants and limiting voting rights, is locked in a tight race with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly.
Local officials site construction at the previous polling place as their reason for moving the location, and, according to Slate, Kobach’s office claims there’s nothing unusual or discriminatory about the moving of the polling location.