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Elections Board to Consider Opening More Polling Places

Aug. 8, 2006 — The St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections will meet Wednesday to discuss the matter of opening additional polling places in the district for the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, Elections Supervisor John Abramson said Tuesday. Abramson was testifying during a Senate Finance Committee meeting to consider the fiscal year 2007 budget request for his office and the Board of Elections.
The Supervisor of Elections budget request is $1.3 million, with the St. Thomas/St. John Board at $99,237. The St. Croix Board budget request stands at $107,563.
As it now stands, only six of the usual 30 polling places on St. Thomas/St. John will be open. On St. Croix, all 40 will be in use.
Abramson said his office has received petitions urging the board to open more places on St. Thomas/St. John.
"Your statistics indicate the number of voters is very close. If St. Croix is able to open all its polling places, St. Thomas should too," Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Louis P. Hill said.
The Democratic Party released a statement late Tuesday indicating that it had filed for a Superior Court injunction to force the Board of Election to open all polling places on St. Thomas/St. John.
"We hope the board will reconsider its position now that it has had the chance to see the probability of a heated and contested primary and faced with a petition from hundreds of voters," Democratic Party State Chairman Cecil Benjamin said in the news release.
He said he hoped the board will reverse its position in order to avoid a costly and unnecessary court battle.
During the Finance Committee hearing, Abramson said that there are 24,735 registered voters on St. Thomas, 1,799 on St. John and 24,267 on St. Croix.
Abramson added that 2,901 voters on St. Thomas/St. John and 2,898 on St. Croix recently had their voter registrations cancelled.
"They did not participate in the last two general elections or moved out of the territory," he said.
Abramson said that if voters find their names are not on the list when they go to vote, they will be given a provisional ballot. The board then decides whether their vote will count.
He said a "substantial number" of young people register to vote, so they can get an identification card, but don't go to the polls on Election Day.
"They refuse to participate in the process," he said.
He said that the failure of voters to read the instructions on the voting machines causes the most problems on Election Day.
"Read the instructions," Abramson said.
He said if people need a refresher on how to operate the machines, they need only to stop by an Elections office.
In discussing the improvements made to the election system during the past year, Abramson said that help for disabled voters is high on the list.
He said $100,000 worth of funding from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department allowed the Election System to install items like ramps and a device that reads the ballot through earphones to voters with visual impairment.
Abramson asked that the senators pass legislation allowing the system to utilize electronic poll books rather than the big, black ones now in use.
"They're not made anywhere in the world," he said of the black books.
Sen. Neville James had nice words for Abramson and his staff.
"You take a lot of heat, but the election office delivers the goods," he said.
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