The American Civil Liberties Union made a statement to Ford County and Ford County Administrator J.D. Gilbert regarding a lawsuit that comes from the 2018 election when Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox, moved the one polling location to the Western State Bank Expo Center from the Dodge City Civic Center.

ACLU Interim Executive Director Lauren Bonds released a statement over a statement that was recently made by Gilbert.

"Ford County Administrator J.D. Gilbert’s statement is a thinly veiled attempt to shift the embarrassing responsibility of spending $90,000 and counting on a lawsuit rather than simply opening more polling places as Dodge City constituents have most reasonably asked," Bonds said. "While the ACLU of Kansas filed the lawsuit, it did so on behalf of Ford County residents who’d tried for more than a year to get Cox to address their concerns. "After little progress, those constituents contacted us."

A previous press release from Gilbert was aimed at the ACLU saying, "As with the previous press releases and information provided by the ACLU, the latest information is intellectually dishonest, intentionally misleading and uninformed.

"It is a fact that the County has paid $70,000-plus for legal fees in defense of the ACLU’s legal action against Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox."

In the previous release from Gilbert, the law firm fees from the lawsuit were at the time $70,000 which have now been upped to the $90,000 the ACLU is referring to.

The lawsuit is asking that Cox confirm the use of opening more than one polling location in Dodge City for the 2020 election cycle. At this time, Cox has not named any new locations but it has been previously reported that locations are currently being negotiated.

The response from Bonds continues to say, "Our clients, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and (Dodge City resident) Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, remain open to any settlement offers and invite Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox to propose some concrete plans that address their voting access concerns.

"Specifically, Cox could make this lawsuit disappear today by promising to open more polling sites. To date, she’s only indicated an intent to do so."

Bonds adds that there have been year-long attempts by Ford County residents to open more than one polling location.

Bonds says that the ACLU of Kansas has written three letters to Cox which they claim she ignored and going as far as saying "LOL" to one of the inquiries.

"Though they’d probably like to, surely Cox and Ford County government haven’t forgotten the 'LOL' email already," Bonds said. "Their constituents sure haven’t. Our discussions with Kansas county clerks and elections officials indicate Cox could have opened a dozen polling places for what she’s spent in legal fees — and Ford County taxpayers haven’t received January’s bill yet.

"Ford County government should just open more polling places already, and stop trying to shift the blame for its lack of constituent responsiveness."

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com