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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 7, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesQUESTIONS RAISED OVER ELECTION FUNDING

QUESTIONS RAISED OVER ELECTION FUNDING

In the wake of Saturday’s anemic voter turnout for the primary election, the chairman of the V.I. Joint Boards of Elections is calling on the Senate to override Gov. Charles Turnbull’s veto of a bill that would have political parties pay for electing their candidates for public office.
About 2,760 of 19,686 registered Democrats, or about 14 percent, cast ballots in St. Croix on Saturday where nine senatorial candidates were vying for seven seats. In the St. Thomas-St. John district, the turnout was worse with just over 6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots – about 1,100 voters of the 17,261 registered Democrats and Republicans there.
The weak turnout has prompted Raymond "Usie" Richards, chairman of the Joint Boards of Elections and Senate candidate for the Independent Citizens Movement, to call for all political parties to conduct primaries for their party positions and candidates for public office.
As the law now stands, parties are only required to pay for electing their own party officers.
The cost to hold Saturday’s election, which along with the Democratic senatorial candidates on St. Croix included races for local Republican and Democratic party positions, was $160,000.
"The dismal turnout for Saturday’s primary is a clear indication that the government of these Virgin Islands cannot continue to finance the cost of primary affairs…," Richards said.
In 1997, the Joint Board of Elections and John Abramson, supervisor of elections, recommended a set of election reform proposals to Senate President Lorraine Berry. Those included language that called for parties to pay for their party and public office elections.
But according to Richards and Abramson, the language regarding public office was dropped before the entire reform package was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Turnbull in 1998.
However, Richards said that last January elections officials discovered the missing language, which left them stuck with the $160,000 bill to carry out the primary. Meanwhile, Sen. Adelbert Bryan was successful earlier this year in amending the public-office language back onto the law. Turnbull, however, vetoed Bryan’s amendment.
While Abramson declined to speculate on why Turnbull and Berry, both Democrats, have tried to scuttle the public office provision, Richards didn’t pull any punches. He said the issue couldn’t be financial because the Democrats are by far the largest party in the territory and they had funds to send a contingent of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles last month.
Additionally, he said that over the summer Democratic Party members supported the idea of political parties footing the entire primary bill, not just for party positions.
"It can’t be a motive of cost. They have the most money," Richards said. "They must have some fear of the inner workings of their own party."
Meanwhile, even though the law calls for parties to cover the expense for electing party officers, Abramson said the Elections Board conducted the entire primary as a "courtesy," mostly because Democratic Party leaders weren’t prepared to handle their own affairs this year.
Leaders of all three parties have said they will institute a process to elect their officers before the 2002 elections. Republicans have said they will hold caucuses to do so, just as they do to choose delegates to their national conventions. The 2-year-old law also says the Elections Board must certify each party's plan to elect its officers. None of the three parties has asked to be certified.
Meanwhile, elections officials are facing the November general election without funding. The fiscal year 2000 budget, which ends Sept. 30, contained election funds but those were spent on Saturday’s primary, Richards said. The fiscal year 2001 budget, which starts Oct. 1, has yet to be approved.
"The existing budget doesn’t have money for the general election," Richards said. "There is no way we can conduct this election without an additional appropriation."

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In the wake of Saturday’s anemic voter turnout for the primary election, the chairman of the V.I. Joint Boards of Elections is calling on the Senate to override Gov. Charles Turnbull’s veto of a bill that would have political parties pay for electing their candidates for public office.
About 2,760 of 19,686 registered Democrats, or about 14 percent, cast ballots in St. Croix on Saturday where nine senatorial candidates were vying for seven seats. In the St. Thomas-St. John district, the turnout was worse with just over 6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots – about 1,100 voters of the 17,261 registered Democrats and Republicans there.
The weak turnout has prompted Raymond "Usie" Richards, chairman of the Joint Boards of Elections and Senate candidate for the Independent Citizens Movement, to call for all political parties to conduct primaries for their party positions and candidates for public office.
As the law now stands, parties are only required to pay for electing their own party officers.
The cost to hold Saturday’s election, which along with the Democratic senatorial candidates on St. Croix included races for local Republican and Democratic party positions, was $160,000.
"The dismal turnout for Saturday’s primary is a clear indication that the government of these Virgin Islands cannot continue to finance the cost of primary affairs...," Richards said.
In 1997, the Joint Board of Elections and John Abramson, supervisor of elections, recommended a set of election reform proposals to Senate President Lorraine Berry. Those included language that called for parties to pay for their party and public office elections.
But according to Richards and Abramson, the language regarding public office was dropped before the entire reform package was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Turnbull in 1998.
However, Richards said that last January elections officials discovered the missing language, which left them stuck with the $160,000 bill to carry out the primary. Meanwhile, Sen. Adelbert Bryan was successful earlier this year in amending the public-office language back onto the law. Turnbull, however, vetoed Bryan’s amendment.
While Abramson declined to speculate on why Turnbull and Berry, both Democrats, have tried to scuttle the public office provision, Richards didn’t pull any punches. He said the issue couldn’t be financial because the Democrats are by far the largest party in the territory and they had funds to send a contingent of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles last month.
Additionally, he said that over the summer Democratic Party members supported the idea of political parties footing the entire primary bill, not just for party positions.
"It can’t be a motive of cost. They have the most money," Richards said. "They must have some fear of the inner workings of their own party."
Meanwhile, even though the law calls for parties to cover the expense for electing party officers, Abramson said the Elections Board conducted the entire primary as a "courtesy," mostly because Democratic Party leaders weren’t prepared to handle their own affairs this year.
Leaders of all three parties have said they will institute a process to elect their officers before the 2002 elections. Republicans have said they will hold caucuses to do so, just as they do to choose delegates to their national conventions. The 2-year-old law also says the Elections Board must certify each party's plan to elect its officers. None of the three parties has asked to be certified.
Meanwhile, elections officials are facing the November general election without funding. The fiscal year 2000 budget, which ends Sept. 30, contained election funds but those were spent on Saturday’s primary, Richards said. The fiscal year 2001 budget, which starts Oct. 1, has yet to be approved.
"The existing budget doesn’t have money for the general election," Richards said. "There is no way we can conduct this election without an additional appropriation."