Voting Rights Advocates Challenge At-Large Election Method in Dodge City, Kansas

December 16, 2022 9:15 am

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DODGE CITY, Kan. — Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit Thursday evening challenging the at-large method of elections in Dodge City, Kansas, charging it unlawfully dilutes the voting power of Latino/a/e* residents.

The case was brought by the UCLA Voting Rights Project, ACLU of Kansas, American Civil Liberties Union, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP on behalf of two Latino residents of Dodge City, who live in areas that could be drawn into single-member districts that would give them the opportunity to elect candidates of choice.

According to the lawsuit:

  • The Latine population in Dodge City is large and growing. Latine residents make up 65% of the city’s total population, 59% of its voting-age population, and 46% of its citizen voting-age population.
  • However, since at least the year 2000, no Latine-preferred candidates have been elected to the five-member Dodge City Commission. The commission uses an at-large system of voting — meaning that qualified city residents can vote in elections for all five districts — as opposed to a single-member district model — wherein commission members would represent specific geographic districts within the city and only qualified residents within those districts could vote.
  • While Dodge City’s Latine population votes cohesively, the city’s at-large system has allowed the non-Hispanic white population to vote as a bloc to prevent the Latine population from electing candidates of choice.
  • It is possible to draw a commission map that would give the Latine population the ability to elect candidates of choice in at least two out of five districts.
  • The current at-large system violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
  • The ACLU of Kansas previously filed a lawsuit in 2018 successfully challenging the Ford County clerk’s decision to close and move a central polling location that served 13,000 registered Dodge City voters to outside of the city limits – another recent example of discrimination and barriers to voting that Latine voters have faced in Dodge City.

The following comments are from:

Sonni Waknin, Program Manager and Voting Rights Counsel, UCLA Voting Rights Project: “Dodge City’s at-large method of elections has shut out Latine voices from the political system for over twenty years. We are proud to represent our clients in fighting for a system that will allow them and other Latino voters in Dodge City to have the opportunity to elect candidates of choice.”

Sharon Brett, Legal Director, ACLU of Kansas: “Dodge City’s at-large scheme intentionally and effectively dilutes the political voices of Latine Kansans in Dodge City. This system is reflective of a broader problem in Kansas, where those in power systematically seek to diminish minority voters and exclude them from the governing process. The Latine population in Dodge City deserves equal voice in shaping their local government, and federal law demands it.”

Jonathan Topaz, Staff Attorney, ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “Latines comprise nearly two-thirds of Dodge City’s population, yet no Latine-preferred candidate has ever been elected to the city commission in at least two decades. The current method of electing city commissioners has systematically sapped the political power of the Latine population and is a textbook violation of the Voting Rights Act.”

Abena Mainoo, Partner, Cleary Gottlieb: “Cleary Gottlieb is proud to stand with our partners at UCLA and the ACLU in challenging the systematic exclusion of Latine voters from full participation in our democracy. The law requires that Latine voters in Dodge City — and throughout this country — have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.”

The lawsuit is Coca v. City of Dodge City.


*Latine is the gender neutral of Latino and Latina. The complaint and this release use Latine/Hispanic interchangeably to refer to individuals who self-identify as Latine or Hispanic. When referring to certain population data, the terms “Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino” mean non-white persons of “Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino” origin as defined by the United States Census Bureau and U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

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