Joint Elections Board Excludes New Voters from Tuesday Runoff

The Joint Board of Elections took time away from reconciling the general election ballots Thursday to establish procedures for the unofficial runoff gubernatorial election next Tuesday. They also voted to disallow residents who only registered this week from participating in the runoff.

With the usual bickering, yelling and gavel pounding, the board spent almost an hour rearranging the agenda before getting down to business. By then a speaking time limit was put on the board members by Board President Alecia Wells.

Approving the ballot to be used in the Tuesday runoff election required discussion about party symbols, translation to Spanish, barcodes and colors. Several hours later, before adjourning, the board approved a ballot that had been emailed back and forth for changes.

“Almost 75 percent of the ballots were spoiled for the Democratic symbol,” St. Croix Board Vice President Liliana Belardo de O’Neal said, encouraging the others to “keep it as simple as possible.”

Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, St. Thomas board member, agreed. She said, “Law prohibits the symbol.”

Adelbert Bryan, president of the St. Croix board, disagreed, citing the Help America Vote Act, but he was outvoted.

Later Bryan proposed a motion to rescind the board’s procedure for the general election and allow voters to scan their own ballots into the DS200. That motion was approved.

Before the last election, it was discovered the machine would not properly scan ballots marked by party symbols. Therefore the ballots were handled by district board members and Elections System staff. A final tally of the general election is expected Friday.

Absentee voters were discussed and the joint board agreed to allow ballots sent through email and by fax. Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said the email and faxes could be counted or the votes copied onto a ballot form.

In other action, the board decided to prohibit those who only registered to vote this week from voting on Tuesday in the runoff.

Fawkes said she allowed registration on St. Croix on Monday and Wednesday with permission from the Elections System attorney because the law was “conflicting.” However, the board members agreed to abide by the V.I. Code Title18, 91-94.

Monsanto said, “If they didn’t vote Nov. 4, they should not be able to vote Tuesday.”

The board also directed Fawkes to publicize the decision.

It was not decided whether or not early voting would be permitted.

A lengthy discussion was held about storage of ballots from the primary election and eventually the joint board voted to secure the votes as the St. Croix board had already done. According to de O’Neal, the ballots were wrapped in brown paper, signed and dated by four board members, and secured in locked boxes in a locked room.

Other measures approved during the meeting included rehiring and training election officials for the runoff Tuesday and testing the machine in public on Monday at 4 p.m. in both districts.

In attendance were Wells, Bryan, de O’Neal, Monsanto, Glenn Webster, Lawrence Boschulte, Roland Moolenaar, Harry Daniels and Lydia Hendricks.

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