Oct. 28, 2002 – The political campaign of one of the candidate teams running for governor and lieutenant governor is taking its message across Sir Francis Drake Channel.
Listeners to Tortola radio station ZBVI can hear an appeal by the team of Charles W. Turnbull and Vargrave Richards to join hundreds of fellow "eligible voters" who live in the British Virgin Islands in crossing the channel and casting their ballots for the Democratic slate on Nov. 5. The ad pledges that those who make the trip by boat will be met by surface transportation to take them to the polls.
"It's an ad for the Committee to Re-Elect Turnbull/Richards. It's an ad inviting everybody who is eligible to vote to come down and vote for Turnbull and Richards," Sandra Potter, ZBVI operations and sales manager, said on Monday.
Taking the political campaign out of the territory is not viewed as unusual in Tortola. "It's the same thing that happens here for our elections," Potter said. "Boatloads of people come from St. Thomas to vote in our elections."
According to the political ad currently heard on the BVI airwaves, there are up to 2,000 voters eligible to make the reverse trip on USVI election day.
BVI Elections Supervisor Lisa Penn Lettsome said residents in the U.S. territory can vote in the British territory as long as they meet a list of requirements, but for her counterpart in the U.S. territory, the right to cast a legitimate vote doesn't go both ways.
"The legal basis for it is in our constitution," Lettsome said of the British Virgins' allowing of inter-territorial voting. "It's under the provisions that define persons who are eligible to be registered to vote."
St. Thomas resident Godfrey de Castro, a former attorney general in the U.S. territory, said he's one of the voters who exercises such rights in two territories. "I don't see any problem," he said Monday. "I think it's great because the people of the British Virgin Islands and the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have lived so closely together for so many years."
But USVI Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. said there is, indeed, a problem. He said U.S. citizens signing the territory's voter registration cards state, among other things, that they are not voting in other states, countries or territories and they have lived in the territory for at least three months prior to the vote.
To do otherwise, he said, is breaking the law. So far, Abramson said on Monday, he has gotten complaints about extra-territorial voter solicitations but has yet to see the evidence that this is happening. "These allegations are only allegations until somebody has the testicular fortitude to charge somebody is committing perjury," he said.
For the last three election cycles, Abramson said, in an effort to ensure that only bona fide voters take part in local elections, he has been collecting registered voter lists from the BVI and doing some cross-checking.
Lettsome said such lists of those who can legitimately vote are posted in public places around the British territory weeks before an election. Abramson said he uses the BVI list to "verify it against my own and come up with anybody's name that seems to be similar."
Abramson expressed concern about the radio ads and said he would contact the Tortola station to find out more about them.
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