Special Election for Vacant Senate Seat Slated for April 8

A special election to fill the vacant V.I. Senate seat has been set for April 8, nomination packages have been put together and on Monday, the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections called for any registered voter interested in running.

The nomination packets will be available starting 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to a release from the Elections System, which also announced the availability of the 2017 special election calendar. It is not clear at this point if senator-elect Kevin Rodriquez, whose seat has remained vacant since members of the Senate were sworn in last month, will be eligible to run again.

For months, Rodriquez has been battling a court challenge to his eligibility to run for office. The legal action was filed in December by former senatorial candidate Janelle Sarauw. Sarauw and campaign worker Brigitte Berry’s claims that Rodriquez doesn’t meet local residency requirements are based on testimony he gave in Tennessee bankruptcy court in 2016, saying that he was a resident of that state.

The case went through the V.I. Superior and Supreme Courts before Rodriquez filed to remove it to V.I. District Court and sought to have presiding Judge Curtis Gomez weigh in on whether the 32nd Legislature, after being sworn in, had the authority to seat him. In his opinion, Gomez dismissed Rodriquez’s and Sarauw’s cases and opened up the door for a special election, which the Elections System on Monday scheduled for April 8.

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To help the process along, the Senate will soon meet in session to address loopholes in the recently enacted law that sought to establish a single Elections Board but appeared, in the meantime, to dissolve both district boards, which would make it difficult to hold and certify a special election. In a release Monday, Senate President Myron Jackson said Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes has put in a request for $140,000 to hold the special election, and Jackson said that in order for the process to continue, the law would have to either be amended or repealed.

“We’re fixing the deficiencies,” Jackson said in the release. “Whether we repeal the legislation or make amendments, we will be addressing the special election.”

Special election ballots would have to be mailed to certain sets of voters, such as members of the military, at least 45 days in advance of the election, Jackson said, adding that the process has to continue moving forward quickly in order for all deadlines to be met.

Anyone with questions can contact the Elections System offices at: St. Thomas, 340-774-3107; St. Croix, 340-773-1021; or St. John, 340-776-6535.

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