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Friday, January 27, 2023
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Elections Board Upholds Certified Candidates

Elections Board Chairman Raymond Williams thanked the investigative team for its fast turnaround in addressing letters of complaint by and about political candidates.
(File photo)

After two days of checking claims by and about candidates for public office recently deemed eligible, a committee from the Board of Elections said they would leave the list intact. Board members recessed their scheduled Monday meeting to examine claims brought up in letters sent by two candidates and one concerned citizen.

When the meeting reconvened Wednesday, a three-member team of board members who looked into the claims said the body does not have the power to declare who was right. The full board then voted to accept the conclusions offered by members Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Alecia Wells and Angeli Leerdam.

Most of the discussion took place in executive session by way of a livestream and was not made public. When the session opened to the public, the discussions were wrapping up.

Harris-Moorhead, an attorney in the St. Croix district and longtime board member, spoke on behalf of the team. She addressed the letter from district Senate candidate Genevieve Whitaker and one from the gubernatorial team of Kent Bernier and Oakland Benta.

Whitaker notified the board she had filed a police report against an individual who she said threatened her life and was trying to persuade others not to vote for her. Bernier and Benta, running as members of the V.I. Democratic Party, said party leaders were showing favoritism for a rival team of Democrats – Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach.

The team also looked into claims by a concerned citizen that senator-at-large candidate Angel Bolques Jr. did not live at the St. John address he listed when he filed as a candidate. Investigators said the staff at the Elections System of the Virgin Islands did its best to verify if the candidate lived there.

“The office of the supervisor (of Elections) has done its due diligence,” Elections Board Chairman Raymond Williams said. It has been the custom for a resident of St. John to fill the seat as senator-at-large.

The team also told their fellow board members that relief for Whitaker’s complaint could be found in the courts and called the Bernier team’s complaint an internal Democratic Party matter.

Williams thanked Leerdam, Wells and Harris-Moorhead for the effort they put in since Monday afternoon to prepare a report on the complaints and deliver it by Wednesday. The chairman also ruled a motion put forth by board member Harriet Mercer to be out of order.

Had it passed, Mercer’s motion would have directed Bolques to immediately produce documents proving his home address. That motion came before a motion by the full board to accept the team’s findings and did not survive a preliminary vote challenging Williams’ declaration.

Mercer issued a challenge to the chair; Williams called on board members to affirm the challenge. When board secretary Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal counted up the voice votes, the challenge failed.

Before the Wednesday session adjourned board members voted to adopt the proposed ballot to be used for the August primary. Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes said the finalized ballot had to go to the printing service by July in order to be ready in time.

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