Elections Board Rejects At Large Write In Candidate Request to Double Check Ballot Count

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ST. THOMAS — A write-in candidate for Senator at Large was turned down by the St. Thomas-St. John Elections board this week when he tried to set conditions for November’s general election.

School safety officer Steven Payne asked board members to allow his campaign team to count ballots during the post election tabulations.
The requests were made during a scheduled board meeting held Thursday. Board members said no.

08.02.16 Steven Payne PhotoPayne also asked if special instructions could be given to voters as they entered the polls, informing them there was a write-in option available in the Senator-At-Large race. A further request made by the candidate asked that poll workers instruct voters to bubble in their choice for At-Large candidate next to the place where they write in their choice.

Payne first presented himself to voters as a write-in choice during the August primary, where he lost to businessman Brian A. Smith. Smith beat both Payne and Democratic candidate Stacie January in a close three-way race. Now, with the November contest looming, Payne is tossing his hat in again.

The candidate said hundreds of voters who favored him in the August race had their votes cast aside because they failed to fill in the bubble appearing next to the space where the name was written in.

Board members pointed to Payne’s status as a write-in candidate as the reason why they denied his request over ballot counting. District elections board chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. said if Payne had come into the race using the formal method, his name would have appeared on the printed ballot and he would be entitled to having campaign workers count the vote.

Watlington added it’s the duty of the candidate to inform the public they are running for an elected seat as a write-in, not the poll workers or poll judges who are neutral.

And, he said, the instruction to bubble in the oval appearing next to the name of a write-in candidate — or any candidate appearing on the ballot — is printed in the instructions every voter receives.
“He wanted us to let the poll workers tell the voters about the process of voting,” said board member Carla Joseph. Joseph said she cut off the portion of the ballot that spells out the steps to be taken and gave it to the candidate.

Several weeks ago, before the primary took place, Payne said he entered the race after the deadline for submission of candidate petitons and the casting of lots because he believed he would have to give up his government job as a pre requisite. Family considerations prevented him from doing so, he said, because he was the head of household and sole source of income at the time.

Photo courtesy of the Election Systems of the Virgin Islands Facebook Page.