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Case Dismissed: Daniel Out as Constitutional Convention Delegate

Sept. 17, 2007 — The Constitutional Convention process may finally be moving forward, but Harry Daniel will not be on the roster of delegates from the St. Thomas-St. John district, a panel of V.I. Supreme Court justices ruled Monday.
Instead, the months-long court case has been remanded back to the V.I. Superior Court and dismissed in its entirety, according to an opinion handed down by Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge and Associate Justice Maria M. Cabret.
The ruling also reverses a recent decision issued by Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll III, who had ordered board of elections members to re-certify the June 12 special-election results based on the number of votes each district candidate received. In doing so, the board was also prohibited from placing a cap on the number of delegates coming from St. John, Carroll said.
During a meeting in early June, members of the Joint Board of Elections unanimously approved a ballot redesign, which, among other things, split Constitutional Convention candidates running in the St. Thomas-St. John district into two separate columns. Instructions printed at the top of the ballot also instructed voters to select a maximum 11 delegates from St. Thomas and "no more than" two delegates from St. John.
Carroll argued that local law does not set an upper limit, but rather instructs voters to select "no fewer than two" delegates from St. John.
However, Carroll also ruled that Daniel knew about the ballot changes at least a week before the election, but delayed in filing his appeal against the board. Ballot revisions were printed in local newspapers and broadcast on the radio, Carroll said, giving Daniel "adequate notice" that something new had happened.
Appearing before the Supreme Court panel during a recent hearing, elections' attorney Tamika Archer reiterated the latter portion of Carroll's decision, saying that Daniel should have filed his appeal as soon as possible. Because Daniel waited until after the election to file his challenge, he is now prohibited by the legal doctrine of laches — which establishes a statute of limitations on the amount of time an individual has to file a claim — he is now prohibited from contesting the results, she said.
Two out of three of the Supreme Court justices agreed, saying that Daniel was given immediate notice about the ballot changes through coverage from local news outlets.
"There were no challenges to the revised ballot in the week leading up to the election," the court's opinion says. "In court, the supervisor of elections testified that during the week prior to an election, including the weekend, he and his staff are available to address any elections matters that arise. The supervisor … further testified that if he had received a complaint about the ballot, he would have forwarded it to the board, which could have revised the ballot."
The opinion adds that Daniel waited to see if he had won the election before filing his claim against the board.
"Daniel was well aware that, according to the revised ballot, there were only two seats available for St. John candidates in the special election …" the justices write. "Daniel lacked diligence by waiting to see whether he would win one of those seats. Despite his knowledge of the ballot change, Daniel remained silent and gambled that he would still be elected as a delegate."
The board did violate local law when revising the ballot, and had Daniel filed his complaint right away, they would still have had time to correct the errors, the opinion says. Daniel's silence on the matter allowed the board and elections system to continue with their election preparations, the opinion says.
"Simply put, Daniel knew about the ballot revision before the election, yet failed to lodge a pre-election complaint," the justices write.
Since Daniel's complaint has been dismissed, Constitutional Convention activities will proceed with the swearing in of the original 30 delegates certified by the board after the June 12 election.
In a dissenting opinion also handed down on Monday, Associate Justice Ive A. Swan took a different view, and called the board's revisions "illegal."
"The Joint Board's unauthorized effort to create a ballot is disastrous and replete with errors," Swan writes. "Because of the illegal ballot, the voters were not only disenfranchised, but they were deprived of, and precluded from, exercising their lawful options."
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Sept. 17, 2007 -- The Constitutional Convention process may finally be moving forward, but Harry Daniel will not be on the roster of delegates from the St. Thomas-St. John district, a panel of V.I. Supreme Court justices ruled Monday.
Instead, the months-long court case has been remanded back to the V.I. Superior Court and dismissed in its entirety, according to an opinion handed down by Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge and Associate Justice Maria M. Cabret.
The ruling also reverses a recent decision issued by Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll III, who had ordered board of elections members to re-certify the June 12 special-election results based on the number of votes each district candidate received. In doing so, the board was also prohibited from placing a cap on the number of delegates coming from St. John, Carroll said.
During a meeting in early June, members of the Joint Board of Elections unanimously approved a ballot redesign, which, among other things, split Constitutional Convention candidates running in the St. Thomas-St. John district into two separate columns. Instructions printed at the top of the ballot also instructed voters to select a maximum 11 delegates from St. Thomas and "no more than" two delegates from St. John.
Carroll argued that local law does not set an upper limit, but rather instructs voters to select "no fewer than two" delegates from St. John.
However, Carroll also ruled that Daniel knew about the ballot changes at least a week before the election, but delayed in filing his appeal against the board. Ballot revisions were printed in local newspapers and broadcast on the radio, Carroll said, giving Daniel "adequate notice" that something new had happened.
Appearing before the Supreme Court panel during a recent hearing, elections' attorney Tamika Archer reiterated the latter portion of Carroll's decision, saying that Daniel should have filed his appeal as soon as possible. Because Daniel waited until after the election to file his challenge, he is now prohibited by the legal doctrine of laches -- which establishes a statute of limitations on the amount of time an individual has to file a claim -- he is now prohibited from contesting the results, she said.
Two out of three of the Supreme Court justices agreed, saying that Daniel was given immediate notice about the ballot changes through coverage from local news outlets.
"There were no challenges to the revised ballot in the week leading up to the election," the court's opinion says. "In court, the supervisor of elections testified that during the week prior to an election, including the weekend, he and his staff are available to address any elections matters that arise. The supervisor ... further testified that if he had received a complaint about the ballot, he would have forwarded it to the board, which could have revised the ballot."
The opinion adds that Daniel waited to see if he had won the election before filing his claim against the board.
"Daniel was well aware that, according to the revised ballot, there were only two seats available for St. John candidates in the special election ..." the justices write. "Daniel lacked diligence by waiting to see whether he would win one of those seats. Despite his knowledge of the ballot change, Daniel remained silent and gambled that he would still be elected as a delegate."
The board did violate local law when revising the ballot, and had Daniel filed his complaint right away, they would still have had time to correct the errors, the opinion says. Daniel's silence on the matter allowed the board and elections system to continue with their election preparations, the opinion says.
"Simply put, Daniel knew about the ballot revision before the election, yet failed to lodge a pre-election complaint," the justices write.
Since Daniel's complaint has been dismissed, Constitutional Convention activities will proceed with the swearing in of the original 30 delegates certified by the board after the June 12 election.
In a dissenting opinion also handed down on Monday, Associate Justice Ive A. Swan took a different view, and called the board's revisions "illegal."
"The Joint Board's unauthorized effort to create a ballot is disastrous and replete with errors," Swan writes. "Because of the illegal ballot, the voters were not only disenfranchised, but they were deprived of, and precluded from, exercising their lawful options."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.