Whether or not political parties should pay for their primaries rather than the local government dominated the discussion Tuesday as the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee took up a bill to allow for paper ballots in elections.
At issue was the section of the bill that would mainly impact the Democratic Party since it usually has more candidates vying for its slots on the ballot.
“The party is not able to conduct its primary,” Democratic National Committee member Glen Smith told the senators gathered at the Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas for the committee meeting. “We don’t have the resources and we are not ready to do it at this time.”
The Board of Elections wants to shift the responsibility to political parties because of the expense.
“A number of states do it that way,” said Board of Elections member Lisa Harris-Moorhead.
Harris-Moorhead said a “full-blown” election runs $350,000.
Eventually the senators at the meeting approved a compromise.
“I agree the parties should assume responsibility but the structure is not in place,” said Sen. Ronald Russell.
The section of the bill pertaining to primaries hosted by political parties was amended to give them until Jan. 1, 2014 to get organized.
Sen. Carlton “Ital” Dowe and Sen. Celestino White were the only two senators to vote no on the amendment. All seven other senators voted yes to send the amended bill to the full Senate for its consideration.
The senators also amended an election bill aimed at bringing the territory into compliance with federal laws mandating that primaries for federal office holders be held the first Saturday in August to give the Board of Elections time to get absentee ballots out to members of the military at least 45 days before the general election.
The territory currently holds primaries the second Saturday in September. In the territory’s case, the federal mandate would apply only to the race for delegate to the U.S. Congress.
Harris-Moorhead said that if the territory does not comply, it faces sanctions from the federal government.
A compromise amendment will separate the primary election for the delegate to Congress’ seat from the other primary for this year only. In 2014, all the primaries will be held the first Saturday in August.
Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen Hansen voted no and Sen. Sammuel Sanes abstained on the amended bill.
The senators also approved a bill honoring one of the territory’s local sports greats, Joseph “Joemeat” Sprauve for his contributions to baseball and to the community. All seven senators at the meeting voted yes.
In addition to Dowe, White, Hansen, Sanes and Russell, Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve and Sen. Usie R. Richards, who chaired the meeting, also attended.