Learning about the monumental effort that eligible voters in Dodge City have to make in order to exercise their right to vote is upsetting. I feel I must speak out against this injustice and against Kris Kobach.
The protection of our voting rights is personal to me. My father, Rafael Ruiz, was an immigrant from Mexico who worked for the Southern Pacific railroad for the majority of his adult life. Working for the railroad gave him the opportunity to join the union and become a US citizen. I have fond memories of walking to our parish church or the neighborhood school with my parents to watch them vote. I remember walking up to a table and Dad would hand over a piece of paper. This was proof of paying a poll tax. Make no mistake: the use of the poll tax was used to disenfranchise minorities and the poor.
The Texas poll tax payment was approved in 1902 and ended in 1966. The twenty-fourth amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1964, prohibiting conditions placed on voting. However, voter suppression has taken other forms. The use of gerrymandering; voter ID laws; proof of citizenship with birth certificate requirement; questionable vote counts; college student voter registration restrictions and limiting voting sites in predominantly minority communities.
Kris Kobach, KS Secretary of State and Republican candidate for Governor, has a history of proposing voting restrictions that disenfranchise minorities. And now, just weeks before the November elections, the election office in Ford County, KS has moved the one and only polling site in Dodge City outside the city limits, and more than a mile from the closest bus stop. Dodge City, is a “majority-minority city”, where 60% of the population is Latinos. The assumption is that the majority of the Latinos will vote for Democrats down the ballot and could favor state Sen. Laura Kelly, the Democratic nominee for Governor. Disenfranchising voters because of their race is illegal under the Constitution and should not be tolerated.
There seems to be relentless attacks on voting rights and the only way to stop them is to elect more Democrats into office, and have more diversity in the legislature. As a Latina who wishes to protect the voting rights of all eligible voters in Kansas, I will speak out against any measures aimed toward voter restrictions and support better access to voting. One good place to start would be for the Legislature to pass Rep. Brett Parker’s “Free State Elections Act.”
What is being done in Dodge City is wrong. As Kansans, we must come together and declare with one voice that this is unjust and that something must be done. I ask for your vote as State Representative so that I can continue to fight for the rights of all Kansas voters in the Kansas Legislature.