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Noonletter, Oct. 29, 2018


Not-so-OK voting corral

Dodge City has been drawing national attention this year because of its lone polling place on the outskirts of town.

For decades, the city of some 27,000 people converged on a single polling place near the center of town to vote.

But this year, Ford County officials moved its polling place to the Western Bank Expo Center. That triggered complaints from people who said voting would now be particularly difficult for workers at the city’s meat-packing plants, who struggle to find ways to get to the remote location.

The issue drew eyes from across the country and has become a favorite example of Democrats who say Republican election officials have worked to suppress the vote of minorities — the majority of the population in Dodge City is Latino — the elderly and Democrats generally.

Madeline Fox and Nomin Ujiyediin report that on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union went to court seeking a temporary restraining order that would require Ford County officials to open a second polling place in Dodge City.

County officials largely avoided reporters’ inquiries about the issue. Last Friday evening, County Administrator J.S. Gilbert issued a statement saying the city has had a single polling place “for more than two decades” and that the old location would soon be used as a staging area for a construction project.

The statement said the new location is “insured to cover crowds, is designed for large crowds specifically, has adequate parking, is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is already part of the county’s operations and planning in relation to severe weather and security response. There was no intent whatsoever to discriminate against any group of voters in the selection of this location, nor will its use have the effect of discriminating any group of voters. Suggestions to the contrary are meritless.”

VPOTUS stumping for Kobach, Watkins

A mini conservativepalooza is coming to Kansas City this Friday, including Vice President Mike Pence rallying the right to stop any blue wave from washing over this part of the Midwest.

The event is being billed as a rally held by the American Conservative Union and the Family Research Council that’ll include Missouri candidates along with Kansas Republican candidates Kris Kobach (governor) and Steve Watkins (Congress).

It’s happening at 1 p.m. Friday at the Hy-Vee Arena that hosted the Republican National Convention in 1976 when it was known as Kemper Arena.

Watkins woes

Watkins, who’s battling former state lawmaker Paul Davis for the congressional district that covers most of the eastern third of Kansas, now faces a report from the Topeka Capital-Journal that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a woman in Alaska more than a decade ago.

The Republican war veteran strongly denied the allegations in a statement. He called them an example of “Brett Kavanaugh-style destruction politics” — suggesting they were similar to allegations that nearly foiled an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The charges come after early reporting suggesting Watkins lied about his business accomplishments.

Tavern training

The Lawrence City Council is contemplating requiring special training for bar workers to stop and prevent sexual harassment and assault.

Some tavern operators are pushing back on the idea, saying they worry that accommodating the training could force them to shut down for hours at a time and that high turnover in the industry might make such a requirement onerous.

“We’d like to see us start at a place that’s less than mandatory training out of the gate,” Philip Bradley, the CEO of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, told Celia Llopis-Jepsen.

The city is still hammering out a proposal, including whether it should just apply to managers, or all employees.

You have the right ...

The Kansas Supreme Court is looking over a case that calls into question when, precisely, someone must be given their Miranda rights — the warning that their statements could be used in a prosecution and that they’re entitled to legal representation.

Police ordered Marcus Guein out of his car in a parking lot, and in the course of questioning, he admitted selling marijuana to a friend.

But, reports Llopis-Jepsen,  an appeals court later threw out his convictions for distribution and for having drug paraphernalia.

The court said repeated profane statements made by a police officer to Guein implied a threat of physical harm, essentially coercing a confession. That meant what Guein said couldn’t be used in court.

Prosecutors say the officer’s words weren’t a threat. They want the Supreme Court to reinstate Guein’s convictions.

Your election crib sheet

Need a quick brief on what to expect on your Kansas ballot? We’ve cobbled something together here.

Home stretch bad TV

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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