Once a voter asks for and is handed a paper ballot during this fall's elections, no other human hand will touch it until the ballot boxes are opened for counting, under policies approved this week by the Virgin Islands Joint Board of Elections.
Board Chairman Rupert Ross said that Thursday the joint board, which represents both the St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John districts, approved the policies to carry out legislation passed earlier this year by the V.I. Senate.
Paper ballots will be an official voting instrument available at all polling places for both the Sept. 8 primary election and the November general election. They will be in addition to the voting machines, he said.
Upon entering the polling place and identifying him or herself, the voter will be asked whether they want to use the machines which have been in use in the territory for decades, or the paper ballot. Anyone requesting a paper ballot will have a “P” placed by his name in the rolls to indicate that choice.
The official handling the paper ballots will hand one to the voter and direct them to the area where he can vote in private. Then the voter will fold the ballot himself and drop it in the secure ballot box.
It will not be touched again until the box is open for counting at the Elections office.
Voting by paper ballot is likely to be a slightly lengthier process than voting my machines, Ross said, and certainly counting them will be. It will also be more expensive, he said.
“We have informed the Legislature that implementing the paper ballot process incurs additional cost,” Ross said. Those include hiring additional Elections officials to monitor and count the ballots, purchasing ballot boxes and having ballots printed, he said.
Counting the paper ballots will undoubtedly delay the time needed to report the results, he added, but couldn't guess by how much.
Ross added that when voting by paper, voters can make a mistake. If that happens before they've put their ballots in the ballot box, they can rectify it, but it will take extra time. The voter has to mark the ballot “spoiled,” then seal it in an envelope so that it doesn't get counted. Only after doing so will the voter get a new ballot to vote on.