By Barbara Erickson
In the wake of 2 mass shootings in less than 24 hours resulting in the death of at least 31 individuals, many Americans are demanding Majority Leader McConnell recall the Senate for a special session to consider House-passed legislation to require universal background checks. How can you find a voice in this conversation and convert your personal outrage to action? There are concrete steps to take that will make a difference, even though you are in San Miguel.
First step, what works? I reached out to Julia Pomeroy, long time Chief of Staff for Oregon Congressperson Earl Blumenauer, to find out what I could do that might actually have an impact in Washington. According to Julia, making contact directly with your Member of Congress (MOC) is an effective tool. She relates: “we do track all individual phone calls and emails and give detailed reports to Earl on what people are calling/writing about so that he and the staff can be super responsive to constituents. What we don’t track are online petitions – we get them in the office and since they are random names without addresses or emails, we throw them out.”
That leads to the next question – how do I identify my MOC? The following sites find them for you and even provide scripts for you to use in case you want them. Alert – the following two sites promote liberal messages: https://5calls.org/issue/expand-background-checks-gun-purchases and https://www.callmycongress.com/ Here is one to send a free fax with no agenda: https://faxzero.com/fax_congress.php
If you want to contact your MOC by email it is simple to google their name to find their congressional site and there you will find a “CONTACT” button to click and write what you want to say. It is important to note that you need to identify yourself as a constituent on all of these platforms to be taken seriously and that you write or call with respect. I personally ask that they respond to my emails as I get satisfaction in knowing they have read my comments.
Does it make a difference? Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer offers this: "The adage, 'If you're not at the table, you're on the menu' applies to getting in contact with your lawmakers," says Ellsworth. She believes the reason that most people don't contact their representatives is because they think either that their voice doesn't matter or that their representative already knows how constituents feel about an issue. "Neither of these are true," she says. She adds "Calling your representatives means their staff needs to give an answer right away."
What else works? Donate to effective gun control advocacy organizations such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: https://www.csgv.org. Ask your friend group to contact their members of congress too, spread the effectiveness. Vote. You can register now at https://vr.votefromabroad.org/ a nonpartisan site.
There are 3 million eligible US voters living overseas, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Recent testimony by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has highlighted the security situation of the US election system. The San Miguel Chapter of Democrats Abroad is sponsoring a talk on August 12th at the Teatro Santa Ana by Ben Ptashnik, co-founder and Director of the National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC). He will speak about the work his coalition has done to safeguard the 2020 elections and what his organization is doing to organize legislative actions in Congress and in the states.
During the opening remarks of Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, he stated “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious...this deserves the attention of every American.” The NEDC is dedicated to reforming US elections by replacing all insecure electronic voting machines with paper ballots before the 2020 elections, promoting paper ballots and audits to protect the integrity of U.S. elections in 2020 and beyond. NEDC is working to build an effective bipartisan movement to secure election reform that ensures integrity, transparency and protects the voting rights of all US Citizens.
Throughout the history of Democrats Abroad, the organization has worked to gain passage of legislation to ensure the rights of overseas voters including The Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act of 1975, and more recently to remove obstacles to overseas voting. Democrats Abroad also works on major non-partisan voter registration drives. “The right to vote is useless if our votes are not properly counted or lost, stolen, hacked or manipulated,” according to Ptashnik. Despite increased focus on security, American elections are a soft target. Leading computer security experts have studied a range of electronic voting infrastructure, including touch screen machines, optical scanners, and registration database systems and found serious vulnerabilities that threaten election integrity.
Ptashnik, a former Democratic Vermont State Senator, has been a social justice activist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist for five decades. He currently lives with his partner Victoria at the Tikkun Eco Center just north of San Miguel. As a Senator, Ptashnik spearheaded and passed his state’s key campaign financing reforms, led in the fight to pass Vermont’s landmark Civil Union Act for LGBT couples, and helped make the State of Vermont an environmental leader in the US. His current project, NEDC, leads a coalition of 15 diversified NGOs and hundreds of computer scientists and cyber experts ranging from far left to far right dedicated to preserving the security of US democratic elections. For more information see www.electiondefense.org and www.USBASE.net.
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