Feb. 20, 2004 – After waiting more than 1½ hours for one of its St. Thomas members to arrive and make a quorum, the Joint Board of Elections canceled its 10 a.m. Thursday meeting on St. John.
However, the St. Thomas member, Lawrence Boschulte, showed up around noon as the members present were chatting. So then the meeting was held after all, but without the news media present.
The board also had changed the location of the meeting, from the Legislature Building to the St. John Administrator's Office at the Battery, without public notice, although a legislative staff member announced the change.
The five members from St. Croix who got up early, took the seaplane from St. Croix to St. Thomas and hoofed it down the waterfront to catch the St. John ferry were more than a bit put out as they waited to see whether the meeting would occur.
"It's a shame," St. Croix member Ana Davila said as she recounted her journey.
Alecia M. Wells, St. John member and chair of the joint board — which consists of the two separate district boards combined, watched each ferry as it arrived at the Cruz Bay dock in the hope of spotting Boschulte. At 11:30 a.m., she gave up and called off the meeting.
During the wait, Wells commented that since members are publicly elected to the district boards, there is nothing the joint board can do when they fail to attend meetings.
St. Croix was missing two members, Carmen Golden and Arthur A. Joseph. Those present from St. Croix were Davila, Reuben Fenton, Evelyn M. James, Rupert Ross Jr., and Raymond Williams.
Wells is one of two St. John members; the other, Donna Roberts, was absent.
From St. Thomas, only George Blackhall was present until Boschulte showed up. Missing were Phyllis Massac, Kevin A. Rodriques and Arturo Watlington Jr.
In addition to hampering board work, failure to muster a quorum costs taxpayers money. The board pays transportation costs to get the members to the meeting location, pays the recorder even if she doesn't work, and pays the caterer for lunch and snacks.
While waiting for Boschulte, Elections Supervisor John Abramson showed the board members around the St. John office of the district board. The tiny space, formerly a jail cell in the Battery, has no lights and no air-conditioner and is barely big enough for the one staff member to work.
"I feel like a slum employer," Abramson said, asking that anyone with more suitable space to rent let his office know.
Turning to election business, Abramson said the joint board has set Nov. 2 as the date for the fall general election, in which voters will choose senators and members of the district Boards of Elections and the Board of Education. If any runoffs are required, they will be held on Nov. 16.
And if a primary election is required, he said, it will be held on Sept. 11.
Abramson said the joint board approved measures to require write-in candidates to notify the elections supervisor of their intent, to group all fees under one schedule, and to set up a way for people whose names do not appear on voter rolls to vote on election day.
In the last instance, he explained, if would-be voters find that their names are not listed at their polling place, they may vote anyway using provisional paper ballots. The Board of Elections will then investigate whether the individual was legitimately entitled to vote; if so, the ballot will be counted, and if not, it will be disregarded.
Abramson said such situations are rare, but in the 2000 election some people who claimed eligibility but whose names were not on the voting rolls were turned away. It turned out their registrations had been canceled because they hadn't voted in the last eight years. Voters must go to the polls at least once every eight years for their registrations to remain current.
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