Dodge City, KS, is a city of roughly 27,000 people, over half of whom are Latinx. This year, it has just one polling place, which is actually outside of city limits. What a coincidence.
The AP reported last week that since 2002, the city has only had one polling location—a civic center in the whiter, wealthier part of town. The ACLU of Kansas told the AP that the one polling site “services more than 13,000 voters in the Dodge City area,” far above the average at other polling locations of around 1,200 voters.
But to make matters worse, the town is using a new, even more inaccessible facility due to “road construction,” which local officials said makes the old polling place inaccessible this year. According to the AP, the decision was announced “just weeks” before the midterm election. (We sent a list of questions to Ford County’s election officer, and will update if and when we get a response.)
Enter Lyft, which is partnering with the voting rights organization Voto Latino:
Per NBC News, which reported on this on Tuesday (emphasis mine):
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.
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.
I can’t think of a better example of life in this country, in this year, than relying on a rideshare service in order to get to the polls because the people in charge of elections are trying to make it impossible to vote. This is especially true in Kansas, where Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach is also the secretary of state (sensing a theme here) and may very well be the most virulent anti-voting crusader in the country.
Lyft is getting some good press for this—and given that the local government is shirking its duty, I guess it’s better than nothing—but its hands aren’t exactly clean. In the 2016 cycle, the company donated at least $25,000 to the Republican Governors Association and another $12,624 to the Republican State Leadership Committee, the two national PACs tasked with electing Republican governors and legislators—including the very people who keep trying to make voting harder.
Relying on private companies to carry out the very basic functions of government because those in charge refuse to? Turns out it’s not great.