September 2003 through February 2004, my colleagues and I on the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections removed over 2,800 voters from Voter Registration list that had not voted in the last two General Elections. It is important to understand that two general elections equal four years; and according to Act 6239, any individual that doesnt vote in two general elections, must be purged (removed) from the voter registration List.
When I first learned about this, I was surprised; I had always believed that once an individual registered to vote, that right to vote remained with that individual for a lifetime; whether or not the individual voted or not. However, this is not true. As a member of the BOE I have since realized the significance of purging individuals from the list. By doing this, the Board of Elections is able to calculate and determine a more accurate count of the percentage of voters that go to the polls the second Saturday of September and first Tuesday of November, every even year.
As we went through the process of purging voters from the list, one simple question came to mind: did all these individuals pass away? I doubt seriously if this is the case. I would suspect that the majority of these individuals lost interest in voting. If this is correct, each of us in our community should be very concerned, as it is the collective voice of the community that is heard when we cast our individual votes; if true, what can our community do to increase and encourage the registered non-voters to vote, and the unregistered individuals to register, and to vote? In a May 20, 2004 guest opinions column of a local print newspaper Amos Carty Jr. stated that "for our community to grow and prosper, for it to truly live up to the legacy not only of the founders, but also of those who fought to extend it to all our people, we all have to take part. Remember, we are the ones truly in charge! This should be our goal not just on Election Day, but every day!"
Many businesses have partnered with the Board in registering voters through out these last few months and the St. Thomas-St. John board greatly appreciate their support. Unfortunately, the St. Thomas-St. John district BOE has held five voter registrations, and not many individuals registered, which is frightening.
1 – Remind our friends and families that once they are registered to
2 – Make voting a family and friends event by going as a group.
3 – If you know of someone that has not participated in the last two elections, take them to re-register.
4 – Practice the rule of 10, make sure you tell ten people to vote, and ask each one of those individuals to do the same (think of the number of individuals we could bring to the polls by doing this small gesture.
5 – Educate and communicate! Individuals must be educated about the importance of one vote through consistent communication.
Many individuals may believe their vote does not matter, that it is a waste their time; I would strongly disagree. Ask Senator Malone or Senator Usie Richards. These two senators, won but placed seventh in their respective districts of STT & STX. Senator Malone won by 50 votes and Senator Richards by 135. If, Senator Coloe and Senator Bryan could have lobbied 51 and 136 voters, our current Legislature may have been comprised of a total different group of individuals. Not only does it have an impact locally, but also, nationally; recall the results of the last presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Mr. Gore lost by just a few votes in Florida, that translated into electoral votes; in the end a few votes lost him the presidential election.
In conclusion, I will like to thank the Hotel Association in their Shake the Vote on Bolongo Beach Monday, May 31, which was very successful. I am asking more businesses to partner with the Board of Elections in voter outreach, and on an individual level ask that those in the community who feel there is nothing you can personally do, to begin by asking a friend or colleague, if they are a registered voter – and should they respond that their vote doesn't count, tell them that it does, and make sure they understand that registering to vote is about more than receiving a free ID.
Editor's note: Lawrence Boschulte is the chair of the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections.
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