OSWEGO — Roughly a dozen people gathered Tuesday afternoon in Oswego’s Donald R. Hill Plaza near city hall carrying “Protect our Vote” signs calling for the U.S. Senate to pass a bill that would provide funds for election security.
Among the protestors were members of the local advocacy organization We The People of Oswego Indivisible, who alongside other central New York activists banded together to call for improved electoral security.
According to Fred Ringwald, who leads the We The People of Oswego Indivisible chapter, the protestors were calling on the U.S. Senate to vote on an election security bill, H.R. 2722, which already passed in the House of Representatives on June 27. The bill would allocate $600 million to secure elections by enhancing security for the infrastructure used to carry out elections.
H.R. 2722 also calls for the usage of “individual durable, voter-verified paper ballots” and expanding on protections and accommodations for the privacy and independence for voters facing physical and mental disabilities. The legislation would also allow marked ballots to be reviewed and inspected by voters before the vote is cast, as well as meeting cybersecurity requirements such as having voting systems disconnected from the internet.
Organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the Electoral Assistance Commission are also required, through the legislation, to award grants to study and develop voter-verified paper ballot-voting, as well as provide states with funding to replace voting systems and carry out electoral security enhancements.
Ringwald said the bill went to the Senate on June 28 “and has been stuck in the Senate since,” adding one of We The People’s areas of advocacy is access to democracy.
Among those at the event was Dana Balter, a Democrat running for the state’s 24th Congressional District seat. Balter, seeking for a second time to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, after losing to the now three-term congressman back in November.
“We’re talking about protecting the essence of democracy. There is nothing more important than the right to vote and having that vote protected and counted,” Balter said. “Congress and the president have got to be doing everything possible to protect that. This is not a partisan issue. It’s a democratic issue.”
Balter said this issue has taken on added importance in recent years, citing “mountains of evidence” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and concerns about other nations following suit.
She added that it is “unacceptable” that her electoral opponent, who is the Ranking Member of the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, “has been against increasing funds for election security.”
When reached for comment, Katko’s spokesperson Erin Elliott told The Palladium-Times that ensuring election security is among the congressman’s “top priorities.”
“He supports H.R. 3412 that would do more to address cybersecurity for states' elections systems,” Elliott said. “The bill will assist states in securing their elections by providing the resources most important to state and local election administrators: infrastructure funding, appropriate security clearance assistance for election officials, a reporting structure for election cybersecurity incidents, and optional hands-on assistance through an Election Cyber Assistance Unit.”