The current initiative that is being processed with the gathering of signatures is in my view a very significant exercise of the rights granted to the people of the Virgin Islands by the U.S. Congress as expressed in the Organic Act 1954 as amended.
There are unfortunately some individuals who are frustrated politicians and who are bent on creating confusion in the community whenever any efforts by others are made to promote any positive change for the benefit of the people. Unless it comes from them they look for or create some basis to object to the positive efforts of others; we should be aware of these prophets of doom.
There are those who really fear changes, but then there are those who for selfish reasons try to maintain the status quo for their own selfish purposes. However, I urge all persons of good will who really love the Virgin Islands and want to see improvement to get involved with others of like mind and intentions and work for positive changes.
The re-empowerment of the people as this initiative of putting the numbered seat question on the ballot signifies. To me that is the greatest significance of this exercise of putting the question on the ballot: the peoples decision, the will of the people to put it on the ballot. Whether it prevails or not is not the most important factor but the right of the citizens to put it on the ballot is. We need to send a message to the elected representatives that we are ready to assume the responsibility that is ours – which is to control our government, by using the mechanism afforded to us by the U.S. Congress: the initiative. We can initiate a proposition and put it on the ballot where the electorate will make the decision directly and the legislators would have to abide by the will of the people.
We all have experienced the blatant disregard our legislators have been demonstrating towards the expressed desire of the electorate. We have the tools to correct that, notwithstanding the work involved in getting it done. Some persons have questioned how the mechanics of the numbered seat would work. It will be the duty of the Board of Elections to devise the procedures to implement the system.
I believe the way it could work: the Board of Elections would have the incumbents draw numbers one through seven and that will initiate the numbered system. Thereafter the legislator occupying a numbered seat can and will be challenged in following elections by challengers who would vie for a particular numbered seat when they register as candidates.
The question also is being asked, knowing the character of some politicians, how it would work if several choose a seat that they perceive the incumbent as very weak and that seat could have large number of challengers as opposed to the incumbent considered as strong, who may not have any challenger. I believe the way the Bd. of Election could avoid that is by stipulating a set number of challengers per seat to even the field of challengers and incumbent. An example of the procedure could be that each seat would have no more than three challengers until all seats are challenged; thereafter, open the challengers' slots after all seats have been challenged by at least three challengers. The mechanism can be devised to implement the numbered system once it is done intelligently and fairly to all concerned: candidate and electors.
Presently all candidates draw lots to be assigned a number on the ballot; in the numbered seats the procedure will slightly different. The important factor is fairness for all concerned.
The idea that a whole semester of voters education is needed to implement changes in the system has no basis in the history of electoral changes. I agree the electorate needs to be properly informed and instructed clearly on the new procedure using audio-visual and hands-on tools in the instruction. Detractors usually invent excuses not to implement positive changes; many are afraid of changes but change is important for progress: Change is a characteristic of life itself.
Where there is a will, a way will be found. Power to the people.
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