ST. THOMAS – The Committee on the Whole, led by Senate President Neville James, met with officials from the Elections System of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Board of Elections to discuss the 2014 Primary, General and Run-off Elections on Tuesday at the Capitol Building.
“This is an informational meeting to discuss the events that occurred during the 2014 Post Election. I am hoping that based on the testimonies today, it will allow for a smoother campaign process for 2016 elections,” said Sen. James.
According to Caroline Fawkes, Supervisor of Elections of the Election System of the Virgin Islands, the budget for the Primary Election held on August 2, 2014 was $350,000 in which only $280,000 was expended. The St.Thomas/St. John expenditures were $108,302.50 and $172, 373.70 was spent for the District of St. Croix. Although, on STT/STJ District there are 17,269 registered voters, only 5,070 people voted. On STX District there are 18,104 registered voters, however, only 5,488 voted.
Fawkes added that implementing the Early Voting was the highlight of the General Election on November 4th. There was a total of 13,584 voter turnout for the STT/STJ District out of 26,760 registered voters. The voter turnout for the STX District was 14,317 on STX District out of the 24,566 registered voters. At the Run-off Elections that were held on November 18th, only 13,741, 26 people voted on the STT/STJ District. In the STX District, the voters turn out were 13,239.
Sen. Novelle Francis inquired of the low voter turnout. In response, Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, Chair, Board of Elections STX District stated that she believes the low voter turn out is a result of poor weather conditions. Sen. Francis asked, “How do you intend to restore the trust of the voters?” O’Neal stated that is one of her biggest challenges because the confidence of the people of the Virgin Islands was low due to the obstacles that occurred during the last election.
Sen. Jean Forde asked, “What were some of the fundamental deficiencies the Board of Elections had during the last election?” Fawkes said, “The Election System had concerns about some the polling places which are mostly schools. We have submitted the Disability Rights report to the Commissioner of Education.” Fawkes added that the Office of the Supervisor has facilities that are not ADA compliant. Lastly, it took a significant amount of time to create standardize policies and procedures for the new voting systems and technologies.
Additionally, O’Neal said, “During the testing of the DS200, the Board found that software bought for the DS200 was not configured for the Territory Symbol Voting Laws. Therefore, the Joint Board voted to have electors deposits their paper ballots in the storage compartment of the DS200.”
Sen. Janette Millin Young said, “The machines that were used in prior elections worked. Let’s recognize what went wrong and move on.”