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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, February 6, 2023
HomeCommentaryOpen Forum: Securing the V.I. Vote

Open Forum: Securing the V.I. Vote

Board of Elections members Lydia Hendricks, from left, Raymond Williams and Angeli Leerdam count votes as they come in on St. Thomas on Nov. 8. (Source photo by Ananta Pancham)

It has become alarming in recent years to see how the integrity of the vote in our nation has been called into question. Loss of faith in the integrity of the vote and the electoral process can undermine the life of a republic, where the people are the ultimate authority and elect representatives to make laws. As such we have a duty to ensure the integrity of the voting process and a secure vote. 

While such happenings were not considered to be of much concern in the Virgin Islands, our last election showed that that cancer has spread here as well. It is true that in previous years here, there would be occasional mumbles about the outcome, but it was never considered to be of any major concern. That changed this past election year with the circulation of a video that seemed to cast suspicion on the actions of certain election staff and workers during the processing of voting cartridges on election night.

The 2022 V.I. election year was one in which gubernatorial candidates in a hotly contested race spent sums of campaign money that surpassed amounts spent in previous years, and senatorial candidates saw opportunity to gain vacated seats in both districts. It was an anxious time with much on the line for candidates and their supporters.

Soon after our 2022 voting results were made public, ugly comments on digital and broadcast media cast aspersions on some individuals working in the election process, intimating that something was amiss in the processing of the V.I. votes.

The Elections System is to be praised for moving quickly to address this matter by requesting an investigation by the FBI, particularly as our elections contained a federal element (election of a Congressional Delegate). Failing to do so could have led to serious consequences for the 2022 V.I. elections.

After a thorough investigation, the FBI concluded that nothing had been found to support the rampant accusations and confirmed that the process was indeed secure and the vote true.

There is much to be learned from this: first, it is interesting how rampant and widespread were the tales and accusations before, but how little is being said after the facts have been made clear. This is particularly of concern, given how reputations were assaulted to the point that some persons suffered psychological and emotional distress because of the false rumors. How do those who have been subsequently proved innocent of the innuendos recuperate from such assaults? 

Secondly, now that the matter has been put to rest, how does the Election System ensure that opportunity to make such mischief in the future is made difficult?  

Thirdly, I have heard little said to commend our elections officials, staff and workers, particularly Ms. Caroline Fawkes, Elections Supervisor and staff, for their excellent work during the long election period.  

As voters, we can feel secure that we have officials and staff working effectively on our behalf to protect our election process. This is critical as we prepare for the upcoming vote on a constitution and soon thereafter on our territorial status. The League of Women Voters of the V.I. is pleased to commend Ms. Fawkes, staff and election workers, for a job very well done!  

— Gwen-Marie Moolenaar, PhD, is president of the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands.

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