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HomeNewsArchivesDEFINE 'ELECTION REFORM,' ABRAMSON URGES

DEFINE 'ELECTION REFORM,' ABRAMSON URGES

Sept. 18, 2001 – Supervisor of Elections John Abramson, who's going to be talking about "election reform" at a public gathering Saturday, wants to know what people mean by the term.
"We need a working definition; it's a very ambiguous phrase," he said. "For most electors, it's a buzzword."
Abramson was discussing the issue in preparation for Sen. Lorraine Berry's Virgin Islanders for Democratic Action forum, where he will be a panelist.
The forum had been scheduled for last Saturday but was postponed in observance of the national and territorial period of mourning for victims and families of the Sept. 11 terrorist bombing attacks. The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel on St. Thomas.
Berry said the forum is intended to allow people to "share their recommendations" and to "develop viable alternatives to elect senators." She said all proposals will be discussed, including the idea of setting up a municipal-based government with town councils.
"Reducing the Senate or having a part-time Senate isn't enough," Berry said. She said she understands that St. John voters are "coming in carloads" to the forum to discuss their "perceived lack of representation" in the government at present.
According to Abramson, a lot more than the means of electing senators is at issue. "The first question is what do people mean by 'election reform'?" he said. "As administrator of the system, if I talk about it in perspective, it's how can I amend, change or improve delivery of services from the election system?"
But, he noted, "If I were a candidate, I'd view it from another perspective, and if I were an elector, then, obviously, again my perspective would be different."
In considering election reform, Abramson said, the entire system of government should be questioned. "Reducing the Senate has nothing to do with election reform; that's legislative reform," he said, "There are more than 20,000 methods of selecting senators, or hybrids of these. It's a massive undertaking. I don't think people understand how technical this is. I have 25 pages written on this already." He added, "I don't think Sen. Berry will be able to accomplish much in one short forum."
He continued, "Our present type of government is commander-in-chief type, like the previous naval administration of the territory. It's not a civilian regime. If we are thinking about changing that, we might need a completely different method of selecting our officials."
Abramson said that former Crucian senator Arnold Golden will talk about municipal government and about St. John getting its fair share. "Change can't be done in a vacuum," he said. "We're all stakeholders — the election system is a stakeholder with a role to fulfill."
In his view, "We need to have good dialog with all views represented. We should have a new commission, a group of people to come up with a comprehensive method of reform.
"If the candidates, the political parties and the general public all have their say, it's a piecemeal approach which will result in catastrophic confusion."
Abramson said a good example of what's wrong with the present system is the administrative burden put on the governor. "The governor has to sign every new hire," he said. "To make it more effective and efficient, this form of government has to change."
As far as referendums go, Abramson contends that "there is no such animal in the V.I." He said, "A referendum is a legislative activity. Only the Legislature can determine a referendum, and they can set the parameters for it. To get it on the ballot, you have to use an initiative with 50 percent of registered voters' approval, and 50 percent voting."
He said several other ways of electing representatives are feasible: "If representation is your goal, numbered seats could work. Districting is another option, requiring extensive mapping." The ultimate decision rests with the Legislature, he said; after a new commission made recommendations, the Senate would have to debate and decide on them.
Virgin Islanders for Democratic Action was founded in 1990. "I want to revitalize my club with this forum," Berry said. "Hopefully by January we can develop a new set of officers. We want to be catalyst — to get the information out."
Those slated to speak and offer short-term and long-term proposals to create an election system with more accountability are Abramson; Golden; Arturo Watlington, V.I. Democratic Party chair; Woodrow Green, Caribbean Democratic Alliance Club chair; Delia Smith, assistant attorney general; Maxwell MacIntosh, attorney; and Paul Leary and Malik Sekou, political scientists. Wanda Mills will serve as moderator.

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Sept. 18, 2001 - Supervisor of Elections John Abramson, who's going to be talking about "election reform" at a public gathering Saturday, wants to know what people mean by the term.
"We need a working definition; it's a very ambiguous phrase," he said. "For most electors, it's a buzzword."
Abramson was discussing the issue in preparation for Sen. Lorraine Berry's Virgin Islanders for Democratic Action forum, where he will be a panelist.
The forum had been scheduled for last Saturday but was postponed in observance of the national and territorial period of mourning for victims and families of the Sept. 11 terrorist bombing attacks. The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel on St. Thomas.
Berry said the forum is intended to allow people to "share their recommendations" and to "develop viable alternatives to elect senators." She said all proposals will be discussed, including the idea of setting up a municipal-based government with town councils.
"Reducing the Senate or having a part-time Senate isn't enough," Berry said. She said she understands that St. John voters are "coming in carloads" to the forum to discuss their "perceived lack of representation" in the government at present.
According to Abramson, a lot more than the means of electing senators is at issue. "The first question is what do people mean by 'election reform'?" he said. "As administrator of the system, if I talk about it in perspective, it's how can I amend, change or improve delivery of services from the election system?"
But, he noted, "If I were a candidate, I'd view it from another perspective, and if I were an elector, then, obviously, again my perspective would be different."
In considering election reform, Abramson said, the entire system of government should be questioned. "Reducing the Senate has nothing to do with election reform; that's legislative reform," he said, "There are more than 20,000 methods of selecting senators, or hybrids of these. It's a massive undertaking. I don't think people understand how technical this is. I have 25 pages written on this already." He added, "I don't think Sen. Berry will be able to accomplish much in one short forum."
He continued, "Our present type of government is commander-in-chief type, like the previous naval administration of the territory. It's not a civilian regime. If we are thinking about changing that, we might need a completely different method of selecting our officials."
Abramson said that former Crucian senator Arnold Golden will talk about municipal government and about St. John getting its fair share. "Change can't be done in a vacuum," he said. "We're all stakeholders -- the election system is a stakeholder with a role to fulfill."
In his view, "We need to have good dialog with all views represented. We should have a new commission, a group of people to come up with a comprehensive method of reform.
"If the candidates, the political parties and the general public all have their say, it's a piecemeal approach which will result in catastrophic confusion."
Abramson said a good example of what's wrong with the present system is the administrative burden put on the governor. "The governor has to sign every new hire," he said. "To make it more effective and efficient, this form of government has to change."
As far as referendums go, Abramson contends that "there is no such animal in the V.I." He said, "A referendum is a legislative activity. Only the Legislature can determine a referendum, and they can set the parameters for it. To get it on the ballot, you have to use an initiative with 50 percent of registered voters' approval, and 50 percent voting."
He said several other ways of electing representatives are feasible: "If representation is your goal, numbered seats could work. Districting is another option, requiring extensive mapping." The ultimate decision rests with the Legislature, he said; after a new commission made recommendations, the Senate would have to debate and decide on them.
Virgin Islanders for Democratic Action was founded in 1990. "I want to revitalize my club with this forum," Berry said. "Hopefully by January we can develop a new set of officers. We want to be catalyst -- to get the information out."
Those slated to speak and offer short-term and long-term proposals to create an election system with more accountability are Abramson; Golden; Arturo Watlington, V.I. Democratic Party chair; Woodrow Green, Caribbean Democratic Alliance Club chair; Delia Smith, assistant attorney general; Maxwell MacIntosh, attorney; and Paul Leary and Malik Sekou, political scientists. Wanda Mills will serve as moderator.