Oct. 31, 2002 – Anyone out to influence votes legally on election day can set up shop as close as 25 feet from polling places on St. Croix. But on St. Thomas and St. John, they have to stay 1,000 feet away.
That's the official word from John Abramson Jr., supervisor of elections, and he says it's legal.
Deciding how far campaigners must keep away from polling places falls to the Joint Boards of Elections, Abramson said on Wednesday.
Each district has a Board of Election consisting of seven members. The two boards together constitute the Joint Boards of Election.
The 975-foot discrepancy came about, Abramson said, because "each board has a right to make its own decisions" on matters strictly within its district. And, he added, "I execute what they say."
The joint boards decided in July to impose the 1,000 foot electioneering-free zone, and it was in effect for the first time for the Sept. 14 primary election. Previously, the cutoff had been 25 feet from polling places throughout the territory.
But the St. Croix board, after consulting with Attorney General Iver Stridiron, decided to revert to the old 25-foot standard, Abramson said.
St. Croix senatorial candidate Ronald Russell, a lawyer, challenged the 1000-foot rule prior to the primary, threatening to take the matter to court. Russell and his campaign manager, Melody Rames, also a lawyer, openly set up electioneering in keeping with the old 25-foot guideline, and Rames said they went unchallenged.
Abramson has since issued a release specifying the different guidelines. He said he could not comment on why the two district boards chose different perimeters, except to observe that St. Croix is geographically very different from St. Thomas. "Most of the polling places are at schools where there is lots of space," he said.
Under the 1,000-foot guideline, campaign supporters seeking to influence voters at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School will have to set up operations at a distance that will place them, to the west, beyond the Sea Chest store. Abramson said before the primary election that for anyone seeking to electioneer by Charlotte Amalie High School, the rule would put them, to the east, by the entrance to Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
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