Voting in Dodge City, Kansas, is turning into a showdown as the advocacy group Voto Latino is trying to provide Lyft rides to residents who have no transportation available to the city's only polling site, which was moved out of town by election officials.
Two weeks before the midterm elections, officials moved the Dodge City polling site outside the city limits and more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.
Sixty percent of Dodge City's population is Hispanic and since 2002, the city has had just one polling place to serve nearly 30,000 residents. But it was in the city — in a mostly white neighborhood — at the civic center, according to The Associated Press.
Reports of the polling site relocation led Voto Latino to tweet about its efforts to get riders to the polls and named Dodge City, in particular. The group, which focuses on improving civic engagement of young Latinos, issued a plea for help covering costs, directing supporters to its fundraising site.
"Dodge City, Kansas, is a Latinx-majority city that has had it’s only polling location moved outside of city limits without access by public transportation," Voto Latino said in a Tweet.
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Voto Latino had partnered with Lyft over the summer to offer discount coupons to riders needing help. Steve Madden and Johnnie Walker also have partnered with Voto Latino to offer the rides in Dodge City and other places.
Other groups also are raising money to make sure that people have the transportation they need in order to go vote. A state elections official has said it was moved because of road construction at the location in the city.
"To combat voter suppression in Dodge City, we’re raising funds and recruiting volunteers to make sure all eligible Dodge City voters are able to vote and have their vote counted," the Kansas Democratic Party announced on their Twitter account.
Dodge City public officials told NBC local affiliate KSNW that the city will also be offering free transportation services to those who wish to vote on Nov. 6 and need a ride to the polling site. Voters need to call local offices to book the ride.
But still, getting to the polls is a challenge for many voters and not just older voters.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), over 12.5 million young people who were registered to vote in 2014 didn’t go to the polls. Twenty-nine percent of all youth in the survey cited transportation issues as a reason why they didn’t vote, with 15 percent calling it "a major factor." Lack of transportation was a bigger barrier for youth of color, with 38 percent saying they didn't vote because they did not have transportation to their polling place.
"That’s why we’re committed to providing 50 percent of rides across the country, and free rides to underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation," Lyft said in a press release issued in August when the company announced its nationwide effort.
Although Hispanics have historically voted at lower rates than other racial and ethnic groups, Hispanic voter turnout in Dodge City is even lower.
Hispanic turnout during non-presidential elections is just 17 percent compared to 61 percent turnout for white voters in Ford County in 2014, the Kansas Democratic Party said in a statement.
Kansas has a tight governor’s race between Republican Kris Kobach, an advocate of tougher immigration and voter identification laws, and Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly.
"We need to make it easier for Kansans to vote, not harder," Kelly wrote on Twitter.
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