It appears that candidates will be stumbling over one another vying for one of the seven Legislative seats in each of the two districts. As of Thursday afternoon, the number of people who had picked up paperwork to run for a St. Croix seat stood at 35, and for St. Thomas-St. John, 63. Another four people picked up petitions to run for the single at-large seat. And in the race for delegate to Congress, five people have gotten as far as getting official paperwork.
The actual number of candidates may be lower – or higher – depending on how many more hopefuls emerge in the next two weeks and how many people who indicate their interest can actually get the necessary backing. Candidates may begin submitting completed paperwork and petition signatures as of Aug. 7. The deadline is Aug. 14.
Anyone running with a political party affiliation must get the signatures of at least 25 registered voters of the same party, if he/she is running for a district office, and a minimum of 50 signatures for a territorywide office such as delegate or senator-at-large.
Those running as No Party candidates may get signatures from any registered voter, but they must have twice as many as party candidates, that is, 50 for a district office or 100 for a territorywide office.
The number of signatures required is unrealistic and results in an overcrowded field, according to Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. “Twenty-five is just too low,” he said.
The requirements for petitions were established in 1963 “when we had 26,000 people,” Abramson said. The population has roughly quadrupled since then, but the law governing the petition process is still the same. He contrasted the Virgin Islands’ requirements with those for the District of Columbia where a candidate for mayor of the approximately 650,000 residents must present a petition with 10,000 signatures.
It is all right to sign more than one candidate’s petition, provided that you don’t sign more than there are seats available, Abramson said. For instance, a voter may sign up to seven petitions for people running for a district Senate seat, but only one petition for a person running for the single at-large seat.
Elections officials do check the signatures and they invalidate any extras. Each signature must be dated, so “the first signing is what we accept,” Abramson said.
As expected, primaries appear a sure bet this year at least for the Legislative races. All four potential at-large Senate candidates are Democrats, as are 25 of those signaling a run for the St. Thomas-St. John district and nine of them lining up on St. Croix.
Primaries will be held Sept. 8.
If you want to vote in the primary, you must register to vote by Aug. 9, unless you are already a registered voter. Only persons registered as a member of a given party may vote in that party’s primary. If you want to switch your party affiliation, that deadline is also Aug. 9.
The St. Croix office of Elections announced this week that it will extend its hours in order to accommodate voter registration between now and Aug. 9. Elections officials will be on hand at Sunshine Mall next to Payless Shoe Store from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday and at the Elections office at 92 A-B in Sunny Isle Shopping Center Annex from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Next week, from Monday through August 9, the office will stay open until 7:30 p.m.
The St. Thomas office has not made a similar announcement and staff could not confirm any plans as of Wednesday afternoon.