Volunteers flock to Dodge City to give Election Day rides

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Voters enter the Expo Center south of Dodge City to cast their ballots on Election Day 2018. Voters enter the Expo Center south of Dodge City to cast their ballots on Election Day 2018.

Volunteers from across the nation came to Dodge City on Election Day to give voters a ride to the city's only polling site located outside city limits more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.

This iconic Wild West town located 160 miles (257 kilometers) west of Wichita has a single polling location for its 27,000 residents. The majority are Hispanic immigrants drawn to work at its the two meatpacking plants. Dodge City drew national headlines when just weeks before the election its local election official moved the lone polling site to a facility outside of town, citing planned construction.

On Tuesday, volunteers from cities as far flung as San Diego, Boston, New York, Denver and other cities came to make sure Dodge City residents could vote, said Johnny Dunlap, chairman of the Ford County Democratic Party.

"We had more drivers and buses than we needed, so the challenge wasn't so much the physical rides," Dunlap said. "We had it covered. It was the awareness."

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The party ran ads on Spanish-language radio and television stations, sent postcards, called voters, knocked on doors. Hispanic turnout, while still low, appears to be higher than normal, he said.

"It took a colossal effort to make that happen -- and national media attention -- and it shouldn't be that hard," Dunlap said.

But despite the effort to get people to the polls, the American Civil Liberties Union has fielded complaints that an inordinate number of Hispanic voters are being forced to cast provisional ballots rather than regular ballots. They have gotten at least 17 complaints about that from Dodge City voters.

Among them is Alex Aldape, a 34-year-old Hispanic delivery driver who was born in Dodge City and has lived there nearly all his life. He was told he had to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day because although his voter registration had the correct address, his driver's license had an old address. His wife, who is white, had no trouble voting using her driver's license even though it also their same old address.

Aldape said all the people filling out provisional ballots at a table were Hispanic. He initially filled out a provisional ballot, but was instead given a regular ballot instead after he complained.

"I was irritated and I kind of made it known," he said. "I was not happy with what was going on and I wasn't going to let that go away."

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