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Felons' Rights Among Topics Stretching Out Convention Confab

July 18, 2008 — Committee Chairman Arnold Golden said the meeting of the 5th Constitutional Convention Committee on Suffrage and Elections Right would be a quick one because few changes were proposed from the draft completed by the Fourth Constitutional Convention. But his prediction failed to pan out.
Questions about convicted felons' right to vote, referendums and initiatives sparked long debates. The suffrage committee ran almost three hours and the Committee on Government that was scheduled to follow it on Wednesday night was cancelled.
The suffrage committee had Golden and members Eugene Petersen and Rena Brodhurst attending on St. Croix and no committee members attending on St. Thomas.
The meeting was a teleconference, like Tuesday's Executive Committee meeting, connecting the group on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands with a group at the St. Thomas campus. Many of the delegates participating were the same as the evening before, including former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Lawrence Sewer on St. Thomas and delegates Golden and Gerard Emanuel on St. Croix. Also attending Wednesday was Gerard Luz James II, president of the convention.
However, it was a new St. Croix voice, delegate Kendall Petersen, who launched the discussion about felons' voting rights.
"They take away their name, they give them a number, when they come out they take back the number and give them a name," Petersen said. "Do they return to society as a whole — are rights restored as a civilian?"
As in many discussions at the committee level, delegates wondered out loud if the issue was being addressed in the right place. St. Croix Delegate Douglas Capdeville, who is an attorney, pointed out that the issue of taking away and restoring a felon's right to vote is in federal law, which supersedes everything.
"All of their rights are restored once they come out," said Capdeville.
` Delegates appeared to agree that the issue should be addressed in this section of the constitution and state clearly that after time served a felon should regain his or her right to vote. There was also discussion about prisoners in Puerto Rico given the right to vote in the recent primary election. However, no clear consensus appeared that should happen in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Golden said sections of the present Organic Act, which governs the islands in place of a constitution, made it almost impossible for recalls, initiatives and referendums.
He said the draft of this section should lower the threshold on the number of voters signing petitions so the recall could actually happen.
"The recall of the seven senators earlier this year left something to be desired," said Golden. "The supervisor could have challenged it and he went merrily along."
According to the draft, elected public officials of the V.I. may be recalled by the qualified voters. A recall petition shall identify one official to be recalled by name and office and be signed by at least 20 percent of the number of voters that voted for that office in the previous general election. The petition shall state the reason for recall.
"If 10,000 people voted, then each petition needs to have 2,000 signatures," explained Emanuel.
Golden told the attendees on both islands to put all of their recommendations in writing.
Nothing at the meeting was acted upon.
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July 18, 2008 -- Committee Chairman Arnold Golden said the meeting of the 5th Constitutional Convention Committee on Suffrage and Elections Right would be a quick one because few changes were proposed from the draft completed by the Fourth Constitutional Convention. But his prediction failed to pan out.
Questions about convicted felons' right to vote, referendums and initiatives sparked long debates. The suffrage committee ran almost three hours and the Committee on Government that was scheduled to follow it on Wednesday night was cancelled.
The suffrage committee had Golden and members Eugene Petersen and Rena Brodhurst attending on St. Croix and no committee members attending on St. Thomas.
The meeting was a teleconference, like Tuesday's Executive Committee meeting, connecting the group on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands with a group at the St. Thomas campus. Many of the delegates participating were the same as the evening before, including former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Lawrence Sewer on St. Thomas and delegates Golden and Gerard Emanuel on St. Croix. Also attending Wednesday was Gerard Luz James II, president of the convention.
However, it was a new St. Croix voice, delegate Kendall Petersen, who launched the discussion about felons' voting rights.
"They take away their name, they give them a number, when they come out they take back the number and give them a name," Petersen said. "Do they return to society as a whole -- are rights restored as a civilian?"
As in many discussions at the committee level, delegates wondered out loud if the issue was being addressed in the right place. St. Croix Delegate Douglas Capdeville, who is an attorney, pointed out that the issue of taking away and restoring a felon's right to vote is in federal law, which supersedes everything.
"All of their rights are restored once they come out," said Capdeville.
` Delegates appeared to agree that the issue should be addressed in this section of the constitution and state clearly that after time served a felon should regain his or her right to vote. There was also discussion about prisoners in Puerto Rico given the right to vote in the recent primary election. However, no clear consensus appeared that should happen in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Golden said sections of the present Organic Act, which governs the islands in place of a constitution, made it almost impossible for recalls, initiatives and referendums.
He said the draft of this section should lower the threshold on the number of voters signing petitions so the recall could actually happen.
"The recall of the seven senators earlier this year left something to be desired," said Golden. "The supervisor could have challenged it and he went merrily along."
According to the draft, elected public officials of the V.I. may be recalled by the qualified voters. A recall petition shall identify one official to be recalled by name and office and be signed by at least 20 percent of the number of voters that voted for that office in the previous general election. The petition shall state the reason for recall.
"If 10,000 people voted, then each petition needs to have 2,000 signatures," explained Emanuel.
Golden told the attendees on both islands to put all of their recommendations in writing.
Nothing at the meeting was acted upon.
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.