The St. Thomas-St. John Elections Board’s decision to suspend board member Wilma Marsh-Monsanto for two meetings ended Tuesday with Marsh-Monsanto being escorted by police from an executive session.
The exact reasons for her suspension were unclear. Board chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. gave a brief background on the board’s decision when he opened the meeting around 2 p.m., and from there, little was said from Marsh-Monsanto, since Watlington said she could not actively participate.
The real problem surfaced once the board went into executive session at the end of the meeting and Marsh-Monsanto refused to leave, saying she was a “board member elected by the people.”
The police were then called and three responding officers attempted to calm the situation. They were able to get Marsh-Monsanto to come out of the room and into the hall, where community members attending the meeting, along with the media, were gathered.
As the board continued its executive session, Marsh-Monsanto gave her statement to the police.
Asked afterward why she was suspended, Watlington did not go into details but said the board’s position was that Marsh-Monsanto was “derelict in her duties.” The decision to suspend her appeared to center on Marsh-Monsanto’s attempts to get the FBI involved in an investigation on the possible tampering of new voting equipment by board member Larry Boschulte, who took a piece of equipment to the WSTA radio station for an on-air demonstration.
“What happened is that she wrote this long dissertation that she sent to the FBI, where she was accusing Mr. Boschulte of tampering with the machines,” Watlington said. “This was false, and no rules were broken by his taking the scanner to the radio station. He did it so he could talk about it on the radio, and he gave notice to the other board members.”
Watlington said Boschulte has become familiar with the ES&S optical scan machines certified by the board and the way that they work, and is the best one to explain the process to the public.
During the meeting, Marsh-Monsanto said she had not been notified in writing about the suspension, but Watlington said the board had made several attempts to email and hand deliver a notice “to no avail.”
In the future, district board members will require anyone interested in seeing the machines – including the media – to put their request in writing. The board will not, however, stop ongoing efforts to “educate the public” on the new equipment, board members said. The next on-air demonstration will be on Face to Face on Sept. 18.
In other business, board members discussed the reality of not having enough voting machines for 17 polling sites during the upcoming 2014 election. At this point, 20 machines have been purchased for the district, but board members were told that they would need more. Specifically Watlington said that each machine, optimally, should be used by no more than 400 voters, but the district’s smallest site has more than 700 registered voters.
Board members talked about possible solutions to the problem, including early voting and consolidating polling sites. Elections legislation has been sponsored by Sen. Clifford Graham, but has not moved, so board members spoke about going to the Senate and urging the bill to be pushed forward.
In other news, board members also decided to recommend to Joint Elections board members that the territory’s delegate to Congress be elected by plurality instead of majority vote. Currently the delegate is elected by 50-plus-1 percent of registered voters, or a majority, instead of which candidate simply has more votes than the other.