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Elections Board Moves Towards Defunding Primary Election

The St. Croix Elections Board shuffled voters to more convenient polling sites, they said, and continued to move closer to defunding primary elections during their regular meeting Wednesday.

At the December meeting, the board voted to notify the three major parties that they would be responsible for paying for the 2016 primary election and that the board’s only responsibility is to certify the election.

Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said the political parties have not responded to her request for policies and procedures they plan to use to host the primary.

By approving the proposed election calendar, the Joint Board of Elections accepted a board-funded primary election, according to St. Croix board members who attended the meeting. They again voiced opposition to hosting the event and said funding could be used elsewhere.

“Unless the Legislature changes the law, it is not the decision of the Board of Elections,” board member Raymond Williams said, referring to the V.I. Code, Sec. 232, Title 18 that holds the board responsible for certifying the process.

The St. Croix board members voted and signed a document to propose a videoconference meeting to resolve the matter on Feb. 18 with other members of the Joint Board.

A motion was approved to request an opinion from the Department of Justice regarding the responsibilities of the political parties and a motion also was passed for Department of Justice input on allegations of missing ballots in the St. Thomas/St. John district during the 2012 election.

Months of discussion ended in another motion Wednesday to redistribute voters – relocating around 500 of the 2,500 voters from Alexander Henderson Elementary School and adding voters to the St. Croix Educational Complex.

The distribution of voters will include:

–           Castle Burke voters will go to St. Croix Educational Complex;

–           Golden Grove voters will go to St. Croix Educational Complex;

–           Hannah’s Rest voters will go to Claude O. Markoe Elementary School;

–           Sandy Point voters will go to Claude O. Markoe Elementary School;

–           Stoney Ground voters will go to Claude O. Markoe Elementary School;

–           White Bay and White Lady voters will go to Claude O. Markoe Elementary School;

–           Estate Carlton voters will go to Evelyn Williams precinct (location to be determined);

–           Voters from Elena Christian Junior High will go to St. Dunstan’s Episcopal High School.

The board continued to debate locations for early voting for the 2016 election. There are various charges for renting Sunshine Mall and St. Dunstan’s School and board member Lisa Harris-Moorhead said there should be no fees to use the University of the Virgin Islands and Christiansted Library. No votes were taken.

In other action, the board voted to pursue negotiations for new office space in Estate Lorraine. A two-story building would accommodate staff and the board and has sufficient parking, an elevator and wheelchair ramp, according to Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, board chairwoman. There is a generator, the bathroom is ADA compliant and the rent is less than the present office at Sunny Isle Annex.

“Of the places we have seen, that is absolutely the best,” Williams said and others agreed.

Over the last several months, board members have looked at available spaces in Sunny Isle and other locations with advice from the Office of Property and Procurement.

Fawkes updated the board on steps to make the current Elections System office ADA compliant. One bathroom has been renovated to accommodate wheelchairs and staff suggested moving furniture out of the board room or rewiring closed circuit television so the public has more access to meetings.

Fawkes also informed the board that the cost to dispose of old voting machines by a private party would run $14,000 – less than V.I. Waste Management Authority fees. Currently the devices are being stored for $800 a month.

The board will hold a special meeting to discuss election preparations Feb. 19 at 10 a.m.

Those members attending Wednesday’s meeting included Belardo de O’Neal, Williams, Harris-Moorhead, Adelbert Bryan, Roland Moolenaar, Glenn Webster and Attorney General Clyde Walker.

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