The St. Croix District Board of Elections voted Wednesday to find out what has happened to the electronic poll books purchased in 2009, but not yet used except for demonstrations.
The board, holding its regular monthly meeting, took up the matter at the request of member Adelbert Bryan. In a letter to chairman Rupert Ross, Bryan asked to have Elections Supervisor John Abrahamson report on the status of the e-poll books, which he said were purchased at a total cost of $353,780.
"The 2010 general elections have passed and these e-poll books have not been used as yet," Bryan’s letter said.
Bryan also wanted to know whether any training is planned, so elections employees will be able to use them in 2012.
Board member Raymond Williams reminded the board that the e-poll books had been used as a demonstration during the 2010 Ag Fair, and said, to the best of his recollection, the staff had been trained to use them at that time. Bryan countered that he wasn’t interested in anyone’s best recollection, but in the record.
Ross said he did not receive the letter until Wednesday morning, so it was too late to include on the agenda. Bryan offered a motion, seconded by Williams, asking Abrahamson to make such a report at the board’s February meeting. The motion passed 5-1, with Bryan, Williams, Dodson James, Lisa Harris-Moorhead, and Anita Davila voting yes, Ross voting no, and Carmen Golden absent.
When the e-poll books were introduced at the Ag Fest in 2010, they were touted as a replacement for the massive poll books in which all registered voters are recorded. They would not replace the voting machines now in use.
Under the new system, voters would sign their names onto a tablet, and poll workers would check them off of a list displayed on a computer screen. Once checked off, voters would go to one of several voting machines and vote anonymously. The signature would be stored along with the voter’s records, making it easier to tabulate and check who had and had not voted, elections officials said in 2010.
The system would keep and disseminate accurate statistics much more easily.
Each unit consists of a mouse, a keyboard, a monitor, a signature pad, and a case. The signature pad is similar to what shoppers use for credit card transactions at retail stores.
The system was purchased, according to news reports at the time, in part because the company that makes the traditional huge binders for thick paper printouts stopped making replacement parts.
In other business, the district board struggled to pick a date for the V.I. Joint Board of Elections Board meeting. Ross, who also chairs that board, had hoped to pick a date in the second week of February, but that did not work on several board members’ calendars.
Ross said the meeting, besides being required by law, is vital with the 2012 election season fast approaching. Among other things, he said, the board must approve the elections calendar and deal with issues, such as the e-poll books and paper ballots.
The meeting is to take place on St. Thomas, but scheduling has been complicated due to the St. Thomas Elections Office moving locations; the move is expected to be completed in the first week of February.