Public Citizen, Bexar County activists rally outside senator's office, meet with staff
By Michael Coleman
SAN ANTONIO – Members of the Bexar County Voter Protection Coalition, representatives of Public Citizen and other concerned Texans rallied outside the San Antonio office of Texas Sen. John Cornyn on Sept. 17, and delivered letters urging his support of legislation to keep U.S. elections safe from interference.
The action in downtown San Antonio drew more than 20 participants, as well as media from Fox News, Univision, Telemundo and NBC. Telemundo aired this timely story.
The San Antonio event came as the Senate is set to take up the issue of election spending this month. The U.S. House has already approved legislation that would provide $600 million to help states and localities protect the integrity of elections prior to the 2020 elections. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the House bill to a vote. After the rally, members of Cornyn’s staff met with a small delegation from Public Citizen and the Bexar County Voter Protection Coalition in the senator’s San Antonio office. Although the staff members offered no assurances that Cornyn would support the House-passed legislation, we’re confident they heard and understand our concerns.
“Now that we know all the nefarious ways Russians and even domestic groups are trying to disrupt elections, we must do everything to protect the sanctity of the voting process,” said Susan Korbel of the Bexar County Voter Protection Coalition. “I can’t imagine any reason that Sen. Cornyn would oppose funding for election security.”
Concerns about the vulnerabilities of U.S. elections to internal and external threats have mounted following reports on the threats from U.S. intelligence agencies, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Without paper ballots or an auditable paper trail Texas is especially vulnerable to election interference,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “That’s why we’re calling on Sen. Cornyn to support $600 million for election security. The threat is real, and we must answer it today.”
The San Antonio action Tuesday was one of more than forty around the country in which hundreds of activists gathered in front of district offices of U.S. senators to demand that the Senate pass important election security legislation. This includes approving the House-passed $600 million funding bill (H.R. 3351) to help secure elections from hacking. The legislation would provide money for states and localities to purchase new voting machines with verifiable paper ballots, check machine-reported election results against ballots, secure voter data and hire staff to help managing the evolving threats to our elections. The Senate version of the funding bill that may include election security funds is being marked up Tuesday afternoon in the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.
According to a Brennan Center for Justice report, states will have spent 85% of the funds allocated in 2018 for election security by the 2020 elections. But that previous allocation was not adequate to cover major upgrades to voting equipment in all counties.
“My vote and your vote are too important to be compromised by international interference,” said Ruby Perez of the Bexar County Voting Rights Coalition. “What we need is a change in our voting system, and the change is today!”
“As a Texas Latina who was excited at 18 years old to vote for her first time, I want to be sure that this excitement is alive in our youth,” said Gina Sandoval, a Bexar County elections precinct chair. “Election security and integrity must exist or the trust in our country and democracy will die.”
“Many communities have fought, and continue to fight, hard, shedding blood, sweat and tears, for the right to vote here in the State of Texas,” said James Dykman, also a precinct chair in Bexar County. “If Senator Cornyn intends to preserve the legacy of Willie Velasquez and Emma Tenayuca he will vote for HR 3351. Recuerda. Rusia no es su voz. Su vota es su voz.”