Bill Would Put Presidential Candidates to Symbolic Vote

Supervisor of Elections John AbramsonAlthough U.S. Virgin Islands residents do not have a vote in U.S presidential elections, a bill sponsored by Sens. Louis Hill, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen and Sammuel Sanes would put presidential tickets on V.I. ballots starting in 2012 should it become law.

Supervisor of Elections John Abramson, appearing before the Senate for the first time since being reappointed earlier this week to a third eight-year term, testified against the bill.

"While I believe the intent of the proposed legislation is noble, it is my strong feeling that implementation of this legislation would be costly and create confusion among electors," Abramson said.

A qualifying system would have to be established, to determine what candidates are allowed on the ballot, he said. There are as many as a dozen candidates who make it on the ballots of one or more states, and it would add to the cost of elections to have to determine which party’s candidates meet local criteria, put them onto the ballot and tally their results, he said.

Asked if the ballot could be restricted to just the Democratic and Republican parties, Abramson said the Legislature may be able to do that, but "that would be unfair to other parties," such as the Green party or Libertarians. Later, when asked if just having presidential candidates on primary ballots would eliminate the concern over large numbers of presidential candidates, Abramson said that approach might be feasible.

Hill, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the bill first occurred to several of the senators when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008.

"I and others were of the opinion it would have felt good to cast a vote for the first African=American president, even if it didn’t really count," Hill said.

Herb Schoenbohm of the V.I. Republican Party and Carol M. Burke of the V.I. Democratic Party both testified strongly in support of the bill, arguing it was an important symbolic act.

The bill was held in committee. The committee also heard extensive testimony on suggested technical changes to a bill that would increase some Government Employee Retirement System employee contributions and make an array of other changes. Other bills on the agenda covered topics from requiring that mass appraisals for property taxes be done by V.I. residents, to authorizing a feasibility study on having the government build a hotel on V.I. Port Authority property by St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.

No votes were taken and all bills were held in committee.

Present were: Hansen, Hill, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Celestino White. Non-members Sens. Craig Barshinger and Sammuel Sanes were also present. Absent were Sens. Janette Millin-Young, Usie Richards and Alvin Williams.

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