As I have noted in past Op-Eds, the cost of conducting elections in the Virgin Islands is about five times as much per vote as it is in my home area, Arlington County, Va.
Meanwhile, our Arlington Elections Office is working within in its budget, and that of the Virgin Islands is facing a “fiscal crisis” to quote John Abrahamson, the agency’s director; he seeks extra money to finish out the year.
One of the reasons for the “fiscal crisis” is the very presence of the two boards of elections in the V.I., each with six members, one board for St. Croix and the other for St. Thomas and St. John.
In the latest data I have, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2011, the Senate appropriated $101,158 for the St. Croix operation and $93,751 for the St. Thomas-St. John operation, for a total of $194,909. (I gather that the governor has proposed a 10 percent reduction in the following year’s budget.)
In contrast, in Arlington, Va., where there are more than twice as many voters as in the Virgin Islands, there is a single election board, appointed by the county’s judges; it has three members, and the total costs of the board for a year are not $194,909 but $16,046.
Further, the Arlington board has no separate staff, it simply uses the Registrar of Elections to staff the board, at no extra cost; the V.I. boards each have a full time staff member, so two full salaries are paid in the territory for something that costs nothing in Arlington.
Were the Virgin Islands to adopt the Arlington precedent it would save the costs of supervising the elections staff by 93 percent, and that presumably would help end the so-called “fiscal crisis.”
Meanwhile, to underline the fiscal folly of the islands’ elections, the territory may be about to mount a special recall election for four members of the St. Croix Board of Elections, a costly expense which would not burden the taxpayers were there no elected board to recall.
I have no position on the rights and wrongs of the recall movement, but I do note that if there were no board members to recall, there would be no expensive special election to recall the four board members. Further, I have been paying close attention to elections on the mainland for more than 50 years, and I never have encountered an elected board of elections; I know, for certain, that there are none in New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
All the data above suggests that there are less expensive ways to run elections than the costly apparatus that the islands’ decision-makers have loaded on the islands’ taxpayers.
My advice: whether or not the board members are recalled, abolish both boards and put that function in the hands of three judicial appointees who are paid no more than $5,000 a year for their very part-time duties.