Voter arrested for ‘causing disturbance’
A funny thing happened to Lorenzo Tijerina on the way to the voting booth. Well, maybe not so funny.
At approximately 8 a.m. on Tuesday, November 8, Tijerina went to his polling site at Ruiz Elementary School, 1111 S. Navidad, to vote. According to Tijerina, who posted his story at myspace.com, he was the only voter at the polls at that hour. Once in the voting booth, he became confused about Proposition 6, which concerned reverse mortgages for senior citizens. Tijerina reportedly asked an election official if he could call a friend who might know what the proposition meant. (Election officials aren’t allowed to explain the contents of the ballot.)
Election officials reportedly told Tijerina that election rules prohibit using a cell phone to make calls or taking pictures in the voting area. When he asked officials if he could leave the booth, go outside to use his cell phone, and then return to cast his ballot, Tijerina said he was told that if he left, his vote would be cancelled. When he asked if he could cancel his vote, use his phone, come back and start over, he reportedly was told, “No. Once the vote is cancelled, the opportunity to vote is lost.”
Tijerina asked if he could see the rule in writing, but election officials didn’t have it. Election official Mary Valenzuela reportedly offered to call someone who could answer the questions, adding she would call security to see if they could help. Election Judge Eva Garcia called a supervisor at the elections office, who reportedly told Tijerina on the phone that he “couldn’t use his cell phone in the voting area.” He could, however, the elections office said, cancel his vote, make a call, and then start over. Ultimately, he was told, “not to make it a habit.”
Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said neither she, nor anyone in the elections office, spoke with Tijerina, but that his mother had visited the office. Callanen said she sent Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Diana to the polling site to see if there were any problems. Callanen added that it is legal to cancel your vote and later return to the polls to cast your ballot.
Diana told the Current that he responded to a call from the polling site’s election judge alleging Tijerina was “causing a disturbance.” However, Diana said when he arrived, San Antonio Police had already picked up Tijerina.
Tijerina said that while outside on his cell phone, three San Antonio Police cars pulled up to the school. An officer reportedly told Tijerina, “You go in, you vote, you leave. It’s not hard and now you lost your chance to get out of here.” Tijerina said he didn’t understand why he was being asked to leave when the elections officials had allowed him to cancel his vote.
The officer reportedly told Tijerina to leave three times. “But what about my right to vote?” asked Tijerina, who was then handcuffed.
With his bike packed into the trunk of the squad car, police charged Tijerina with criminal trespass. He was released at 4:45 p.m. on $800 bail. An SAPD official said the police report was in “the black hole” until November 16, when the records department would be finished processing it.
After posting bail, Tijerina returned to the polling site at 6 p.m. He signed in and voted. •
Additional reporting by Lisa Sorg.