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Noonletter, Oct. 30, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Vote the heck out of Dodge

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a temporary restraining order requiring Ford County officials to increase the number of polling places in Dodge City for next Tuesday’s election to two instead of just one.

Nomin Ujiyediin reports the ACLU is arguing that having only one polling place on the outskirts of town effectively restricts the ability to vote and unfairly discriminates against the majority Hispanic population in Dodge City. The group contends that because so many people there work in the city’s two beef packing plants, they have difficulty juggling work and finding a way to get to the remote location.

Ford County officials say it would be impossible for them to open another polling place so quickly. They cite logistical reasons: notifying voters in time of a new polling place; reprogramming computers to print out new ballots; assigning voters to the new location; and hiring and training bilingual poll workers. 

There’s just too little time, the county says, to make the change.

Meanwhile, groups such as Voto Latino and ride-hailing service Lyft are offering free rides to the Dodge City voting location.

Federal District Judge Daniel Crabtree said in a court phone conference on Monday that he’ll decide Wednesday whether to hold an in-person hearing or decide the case based on court filings. County officials promised to appeal if he grants the ACLU’s request. The ACLU said it wouldn’t appeal, but would pursue action after the election.

Border (National) Guard

The Kansas National Guard says it will lend troops to President Donald Trump’s call for a larger military presence backing up border agents in Arizona.

Those Kansas guardsmen will team up with the Arizona National Guard. Kansas National Guard officials didn’t say initially how many troops they would send to the effort or what specialties would be used in the deployment.


Talking with Steve Kraske on KCUR’s “Up to Date” show on Monday, the Republican candidate for governor and Trump ally Kris Kobach said it's unfair to blame the recent politically motivated violence on the president.

“I think we try to draw conclusions that really can’t be drawn if we say, ‘Ah ha, this particular statement by a national leader caused this madman to take up arms or do something drastic,’” Kobach said. “I just don’t think you can draw that link.”

Trump, Kobach said, is no more to blame for the recent violence than former President Barack Obama is for the shooting of Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise during a congressional baseball practice last year.

Birthright or wrong

Trump has now told Axios that he plans to sign an executive order that would remove the citizenship birthright for children born to immigrants in the country illegally — stripping away citizenship rights even if those babies are born in the United States.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump told Axios.

Legal experts strongly dispute that contention, but the president was adamant. “Now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

Kobach, who’s staked much of his career on his immigration hard line, is among those who’ve argued that being born in the country doesn’t necessarily guarantee U.S. citizenship.

Here’s what he told Talking Points Memo in 2015:

“There’s some people excluded, because that’s what the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ mean and the Supreme Court has never had an occasion (to examine) what that means, and to specifically look at the question of the children of illegal aliens. … Any justice who sought to come to the conclusion that the Constitution requires citizenship for the children of illegal aliens would have to explain what the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ mean, and that’s a very difficult task for them to do.”

Kobach told the left-leaning website that Congress should pass a law limiting birthright citizenship to the children of citizens and permanent residents.

Pension, er …

The pension for Kansas state workers still falls short of stockpiling enough dough to cover all the payouts it will eventually owe to retirees.

But recent growth in the stock market — recent ugly weeks notwithstanding — has helped shrink the long-term shortfall in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS. But Stephen Koranda reports that at the end of last year, the state still faced nearly $9 billion more in promised payouts than in expected revenues.

Kansas lawmakers overhauled the pension system several years ago to improve its financial health. The state is on track to eliminate its multi-billion dollar shortfall by around 2033.

Kansas in on good-ish news

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that carbon dioxide emissions belched out by the country’s electric power industry dropped 28 percent 2005 “because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity.”

The agency doesn’t give Kansas-specific figures for that period, but between 2016 and 2017, the state’s carbon footprint from electricity generation dropped about 13 percent.

U.S. carbon emissions overall dropped 14 percent between 2005 and 2017.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that globally, emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities increased by 35 percent from 1990 to 2010 and carbon dioxide emissions grew 42 percent.

Energy efficiency has decreased demand for electric power and more of it is being drawn from sustainable sources such as the wind turbines that have become a fixture of the Kansas countryside.

Can’t say the picture will be flattering, but …

Kansans still need a photo I.D. to vote. The state will give you one. For free.

Most people rely on a driver’s license. Brian Grimmett reports that you can pick up a non-driver’s license identification card at any driver’s license in the state. Just bring a voter registration card. They’ll let you jump the line.

Polling locations will also accept a U.S. passport, military I.D. or a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon (which, oddly enough, most people don’t need to carry a concealed weapon).

Ballot cram material

We’ve alerted you to our voter guide. Here’s an easier-to-use-that-what-the-state-offers way to look at the specific things you’ll see on your particular ballot. Election Day is Nov. 6.

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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