V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks ruled Wednesday that Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was not a candidate for election to the Senate in the November general election and is therefore not entitled to a recount.
The 27-page opinion – which in places reads more like a lesson in English grammar and usage than a legal document – came in response to a motion by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly seeking a writ of mandamus and injunctive relief against the St. Croix District Board of Elections decision to recount Hansen’s vote.
The opinion can be read here.
Willocks denied Hansen’s motion to dismiss O’Reilly’s motion, granted the writ of mandamus, ordered the Board of Elections to deny Hansen’s petition for a recount, and ordered that any actions taken as a result of the petition for recount be null and void.
The decision appears to put an end to the circuitous and convoluted case that had its roots in 2008, when Hansen was convicted on three counts of willful failure to file an income tax return. Under the Revised Organic Act, the federal legislation which provides the legal underpinning of the territory, the conviction made her ineligible to serve in the Legislature.
She again ran for the Senate in 2010 and 2012 and was elected both times, the highest vote getter for Senate on St. Croix. The question of her candidacy was raised but she argued, and the Board of Elections agreed, that having completed her court ordered punishment for the conviction, she was again eligible. Opponents challenged that her conviction amounted to a "crime of moral turpitude," rendering her ineligible to hold office under Virgin Islands law as long as the conviction remained on her record.
This year Hansen filed papers to seek another term in the Senate, setting off a dizzying array of suits and countersuits. Wednesday’s opinion details the legal battle, as Hansen’s name was ordered on and taken off the ballot repeatedly, with the Supreme Court ruling that indeed her conviction amounted to moral turpitude. Gov. John deJongh Jr. pardoned Hansen, but her application was ruled to be flawed and she had missed the deadline for filing corrected papers, so she was officially removed from the ballot after early voting had already started.
She waged a write-in campaign, but fell short in the race for St. Croix’s seven Senate seats.
Hansen sought a recount that the Board of Elections agreed to, but O’Reilly, who had finished seventh in the race and who stood to be bumped if the recount had somehow added more than a thousand votes to Hansen’s total, filed the petition for a writ of mandamus.
The court’s decision is based on the question of whether Hansen qualified as a candidate under the terms of the law. Only candidates have a right to seek a recount.
Willocks found "unpersuasive" Hansen’s argument that the V.I. Code includes write ins as candidates because it is mentioned in one section of the law, noting that that section applies specifically to campaign contributions.
Examining Title 18 of the Virgin Islands Code, which relates to elections, the opinion notes:
"Instead of referring to persons whose names are not on the ballot as ‘write-in candidates,’ the Legislature specifically uses the word ‘persons.’ This gives great weight to O’Reilly’s argument that persons who receive write-in votes are not ‘candidates’ as defined by Title 18. In addition, the words ‘write-in candidate’ is never used in Title 18 of the Virgin Islands."