Election Boards on Notice for Possible Appeal Challenge

July 11, 2007 — Superintendent of Elections John Abramson told the St. Croix Board of Elections Wednesday to be ready on short notice to meet with their St. Thomas/St. John counterparts in a Joint Boards of Elections to hear Harry Daniel’s challenge of the constitutional convention election results.
Daniel and another candidate Bruce Fielding both filed challenges to June’s election results, arguing the way the ballot was constructed violates the intent and letter of the law setting up the election for convention delegate. On Tuesday, the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Election rejected the challenge. (See "Denied St. John Delegate Loses Elections Board Appeal.")
Abramson said the two challengers now have 10 days to appeal the St. Thomas board’s decision to the joint boards, and that Daniel’s challenge rendered Fielding’s “moot.”
“The joint boards can hear the complaint,” Abramson said. “So you all are pulled into the fray whether you want or not. That is why I called this meeting. I need each of your schedules so we can be ready to move.”
After a decision by the Joint Boards of Election, the next step is court.
“He can’t go to court until he’s exhausted all administrative options,” Abramson said. “He has 10 days to file an appeal to the joint board. Then, within 14 days he can file suit in court.”
A short time before the election, the ballot was changed to address concerns raised by the St. Thomas/St. John board about the way at-large candidates were listed. (See "Ballot Concerns Could Affect Constitutional Convention." )
The original ballot was questioned by board members because at-large delegate candidates from both districts were placed in one column. Members expressed concern that voters could get confused and vote for four candidates within one district. They argued this would conflict with V.I. law, which states that a total of four at-large delegates must be chosen, two from the St. Thomas/St. John district and two from the St. Croix district. Abramson objected to the change, seeing no conflict with the law. (See "Elections Board Members Approve Revised Ballot." )
At the same time as this ballot change was made, a second change was made to the St. Thomas/St. John ballot. The law says 13 delegates will be elected from the St. Thomas/St. John district and that at least two must be residents of St. John. In the original ballot created by Abramson’s Elections Office, all the St. Thomas/St. John candidates were listed together. The St. Thomas/St. John board changed that ballot to separate the St. John candidates and placed instructions to the voters to “select no more than two” candidates from the St. John list. The St. Croix board members emphasized they had no part in the ballot change leading to the dispute.
“In no stretch of the imagination does that (the ballot change) involve the St. Croix Board of Elections,” board member Raymond Williams said.
Board of Elections members in both districts unanimously voted to redesign the ballot during an emergency meeting of the Joint Board of Elections held early last month. (Again, see “Ballot Concerns Could Affect Constitutional Convention.”)
“It is possible Daniel will not pursue it further and no action will be necessary,” Abramson said. “But I understand we can expect something in the next day or two.”
Asked about the ballot structure, Abramson confirmed he opposed the changes.
“The change was initially done to separate the St. Croix from the St. Thomas at-large candidates,” he said. “At that time I opposed the changes. And the St. Thomas board had already approved on May 27 the ballot design I put together. Then on June 2 they changed their minds.”
Abramson wouldn’t say much about the impact of the ballot change.
“I understand the way the ballot was constructed had an effect,” he said. “But I don’t want to take that too far right now as it is under adjudication.”
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