Government & Politics

Congress seeks records related to Kobach, Dodge City in voting rights inquiry

A congressional committee investigating voter suppression is seeking records from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office related to the decision by Ford County officials to move Dodge City’s only polling site outside the city limits last year.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has been investigating alleged voter suppression in several states, including Georgia and Kansas.

The Democratic-led committee sent letters Thursday to Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox seeking information about the controversial decision to move the sole voting site outside of the Latino majority city.

The incident took place when then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was campaigning for governor. Kobach championed restrictions on voting during his eight-year tenure as secretary of state.

The committee is seeking to determine the role of the secretary of state’s office in the decision. Cox had forwarded a complaint about the decision to Kobach’s office with the derisive remark “LOL.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Ford County clerk’s office, but settled the case after Cox agreed to open additional polling sites in future elections.

“We remain concerned, however, that the decision move the polling site last year may have impacted the ability of Dodge City residents to vote in the 2018 election,” wrote Reps. Elijah Cummings and Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrats who respectively chair the oversight committee and subcommittee investigating voting rights.

Their request asks for internal communications within Kobach’s office and its contacts with Ford County officials, other state and federal officials and political candidates.

Schwab’s spokeswoman Katie Koupal confirmed in a phone call that the secretary of state’s office had received the request and was in process of responding to it accordingly.

Cox also received a request for her communications, but could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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