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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 7, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesElection System Seeks Funds to Join 21st Century

Election System Seeks Funds to Join 21st Century

Electronic poll books will be in use come next election, John Abramson Jr., supervisor of elections with the Election System of the Virgin Islands, told senators during Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Appropriations and Budget hearings. They will not totally replace the big black books now being used until the following election, but eventually the big black books will be retired to storage.

The update in technology is made possible with $215,000 in federal funds the election system received under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Election System is waiting for a state plan to be finalized in order to receive funds and for the Election Reform Law 2009 to be passed by the Legislature. Included in that bill is an amendment that will allow the voters’ registration list to be compiled electronically.

The governor’s recommended appropriation for fiscal year 2010 is $1,376,926 but Election Systems is asking for an additional $681,206, making their total appropriation request $2,058,132. The amount of $681,206 has been set aside for them in the overall budget under “miscellaneous,” but Abramson would like those funds moved to their budget appropriation so that the funds cannot be cut.

They need $200,000 for implementation of the September 2010 primary election and $100,000 toward implementation of the November 2011 general elections.

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“As all of you are well aware,” said Abramson, “the Election System finds itself in a very precarious position.”
He said the fiscal year is being closed out during the September primary election and then in October, when Election System is getting ready for the November primary, government agencies are just setting up accounts and won’t give out money. In the past, Election System has usually taken out a line of credit but Abramson feels that, given the economic recession, this will not be feasible.

The main issue, however, is their urgent need for a new home. Office space has been located in the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Facility in Crown Bay. Abramson is asking for the remaining additional fund request of $381,206 for the “relocation and modernization of the St. Thomas elections office."

Their current office location is inaccessible and has been outgrown. In addition, they face a total of six violations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. For the first violation, the agency will be required to pay $55,000 and $110,000 for each violation thereafter. The first violation of accessible parking has been addressed, but unless they move into a new space, the remaining violations will amount to $550,000 in penalties.

Although the new office space will bring a rent increase of approximately $90,000 annually, they will be able to house the voting machines in their office. The machines are currently housed in a separate building on Garden Street.

“While I understand the serious limitation on available funds,” Abramson stated in his testimony, “I must place great emphasis here on the importance of addressing this very critical issue.” He pointed out that “it makes the greatest financial sense to give the System the $381,206 versus paying out the $550,000 in fees and penalties and still address the outstanding ADA issues.”

Election System has been chosen as ambassadors for the Virgin Islands at the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency, and is also a member of the International Election Association.

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Electronic poll books will be in use come next election, John Abramson Jr., supervisor of elections with the Election System of the Virgin Islands, told senators during Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Appropriations and Budget hearings. They will not totally replace the big black books now being used until the following election, but eventually the big black books will be retired to storage.

The update in technology is made possible with $215,000 in federal funds the election system received under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Election System is waiting for a state plan to be finalized in order to receive funds and for the Election Reform Law 2009 to be passed by the Legislature. Included in that bill is an amendment that will allow the voters' registration list to be compiled electronically.

The governor’s recommended appropriation for fiscal year 2010 is $1,376,926 but Election Systems is asking for an additional $681,206, making their total appropriation request $2,058,132. The amount of $681,206 has been set aside for them in the overall budget under “miscellaneous,” but Abramson would like those funds moved to their budget appropriation so that the funds cannot be cut.

They need $200,000 for implementation of the September 2010 primary election and $100,000 toward implementation of the November 2011 general elections.

“As all of you are well aware,” said Abramson, “the Election System finds itself in a very precarious position.”
He said the fiscal year is being closed out during the September primary election and then in October, when Election System is getting ready for the November primary, government agencies are just setting up accounts and won’t give out money. In the past, Election System has usually taken out a line of credit but Abramson feels that, given the economic recession, this will not be feasible.

The main issue, however, is their urgent need for a new home. Office space has been located in the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Facility in Crown Bay. Abramson is asking for the remaining additional fund request of $381,206 for the “relocation and modernization of the St. Thomas elections office."

Their current office location is inaccessible and has been outgrown. In addition, they face a total of six violations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. For the first violation, the agency will be required to pay $55,000 and $110,000 for each violation thereafter. The first violation of accessible parking has been addressed, but unless they move into a new space, the remaining violations will amount to $550,000 in penalties.

Although the new office space will bring a rent increase of approximately $90,000 annually, they will be able to house the voting machines in their office. The machines are currently housed in a separate building on Garden Street.

“While I understand the serious limitation on available funds,” Abramson stated in his testimony, “I must place great emphasis here on the importance of addressing this very critical issue.” He pointed out that “it makes the greatest financial sense to give the System the $381,206 versus paying out the $550,000 in fees and penalties and still address the outstanding ADA issues.”

Election System has been chosen as ambassadors for the Virgin Islands at the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency, and is also a member of the International Election Association.