Attorney General Claude Walker sent a letter Friday to Joint Board of Elections Chairman Arturo Watlington and St. Croix Board of Elections Chairwoman Liliana Belardo de O’Neal saying the general election ballot does not conform to V.I. law and advising them to reprint the ballots.
Several members of the Joint Board already conceded the ballot was not in compliance during a Thursday meeting on St. Croix but a motion to reprint the ballots was voted down. (See Related Links below)
At Thursday’s meeting, it came up that Democratic Party State Chairwoman Donna Christensen, the former delegate to Congress, wrote a letter to Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes on Wednesday saying that because the ballot does not display the party symbol next to the name of the respective party candidate, "That is a violation of the law.”
Fawkes also said that the printing of the ballots without the party symbols was an “oversight” as Elections employees were trying to comply with a new election law passed by the Legislature.
Board members cited the fact that some absentee ballots had already been sent out and that new ballots may take nine days or more to be printed.
There was also some question as to whether the board properly approved the ballot to begin with.
Walker writes in his letter, "I have confirmed that the current ballot for the upcoming November 8, 2016 election does not comply with Virgin Islands law. No party symbol was included as required by the statute."
"You are advised to immediately comply with the statute and correct the ballot," Walker goes on to say.
Absentee ballots that have already been sent out to active duty military, under the Uniform and Overseas Citizens and Voting Act, "should be counted," Walker said, citing a 2014 court case.
He also said early voting scheduled to begin Oct. 22 should actually begin Oct. 25 and end Nov. 5, because the law says early voting begins on the 14th day before an election and ends on the third day before the election.
Christensen praised Walker’s actions in a statement Friday.
"On behalf of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, I want to thank Attorney General Claude Walker for exercising the authority of his office to advise that the board
immediately comply with the law and reprint the illegal ballot. This intervention has
hopefully achieved what the Democratic Party was seeking through a planned TRO," Christensen said.
"The board needs to act on what the territory’s attorney has directed them to do and they
need to do so promptly! Any defiance in the face of his letter would cause all of us to
question their fitness to serve and to oversee an exercise as important as an election," she continued.
The V.I. GOP issued a statement, through spokesman Dennis Lennox, by GOP National
Committeeman Jevon Williams, criticizing both the Joint Board of Elections and Walker’s letter.
“The Democrat-controlled Joint Board of Elections has once proven again that it is unable to conduct free, fair and honest elections," Williams said in the statement.
"The attorney general’s directive is deeply troubling, as it disenfranchises the women and men wearing the uniform of the United States, who will be unable to cast new votes in time for the general election," Williams continues.
Williams did not elaborate as to how Walker’s advice that the board must count those voters’ ballots amounts to disenfranchising or taking the vote away from those voters.