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HomeNewsArchivesPLAN IS FOR PARTIES TO HOLD THEIR OWN PRIMARIES

PLAN IS FOR PARTIES TO HOLD THEIR OWN PRIMARIES

Feb. 5, 2002 – The V.I. Joint Boards of Elections began the process Tuesday of handing responsibility for carrying out primary elections over to the territory's political parties.
Board members met Tuesday to set the guidelines for that transfer. A draft of the guidelines has been developed by elections supervisor John Abramson Jr.
"Up until the last election, the government of the Virgin Islands funded the primary elections," board member Shawn-Michael Malone said. "From this election [next fall] forward, there will be no primary election conducted by the Virgin Islands government."
In recent election years, it has cost the government about $160,000 to conduct primaries in the two districts. Low voter turnout and scarce resources have led the board to seek new alternatives.
For the next three Tuesdays, the board will review different aspects of elections operations at its offices on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The sessions will be open to the public.
The draft guidelines cover the gamut as far as oversight for elections — from deciding who sets the rules, who qualifies and who registers the voters to where the voting is held and who tabulates the votes and reports and certifies the results.
The board will be calling on officials from the territory's three recognized political parties — Democrats, Republicans and Independent Citizens Movement — to fill in the blanks as far as the primaries.
Malone said it will be up to the board to approve the new election system, and its main concern is about making sure that everyone who wants to take part in the process be given a chance to do so. "Inclusion is very important," he said.
Primaries traditionally are held in the month of September. Board members say they hope to complete the new guidelines by March and to get a consensus from party leaders by May.
No target date was announced for the board to grant final approval to the guidelines.
In 1997, the board and Abramson recommended election reform legislation that included having parties pay for both officer elections and public office elections. The language regarding public office was dropped in the bill that became law in 1998. Sen. Adelbert Bryan amended the public-office language back into the law, but Gov. Charles W. Turnbull vetoed the amendment.
As the 2000 elections neared, Democratic leaders said they weren’t prepared to handle their own party elections. The law said the board had to certify each party's plan to elect its officers, but none of the parties submitted one for certification. So, the board decided to go ahead and handle the party officer elections "as a courtesy," Abramson said at the time. But he added, "I don’t believe the taxpayers of this territory should be footing the bill for the political parties."
Leaders of all three parties pledged in 2000 to institute a process to elect their officers before the 2002 elections.

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