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Elections Board Reverses Daniel Decision

Aug. 20, 2007 — After voting last week to seat St. John resident Harry Daniel as a Constitutional Convention delegate, board of elections members decided Monday to scrap the decision and continue a legal battle that has been ongoing for the past month.
Ultimately, the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections decided to appeal a ruling made recently by V.I. Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll, who ordered that the board re-certify the results of the June 12 special election based on the number of votes each candidate received. In doing so, board members could not place a cap on the number of delegates coming from St. John, Carroll said.
Carroll's ruling was based on arguments made in court by Daniel's attorney, Clive Rivers. During recent hearings, Rivers argued that board of elections members violated local law when they approved certain changes to the special-election ballot, and limited to two the number of delegates that could be elected from St. John.
When reading his decision, Carroll said the "plain language" of the Constitutional Convention statute requires a minimum of two delegates from St. John, but gives no maximum number.
During a meeting five days ago, a majority of St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections members voted to execute Carroll's order. Though the board also split the vote on a motion to seat Daniel as delegate, Elections Supervisor John Abramson explained that any vote made to "execute" — or carry out — the judge's decision was, in essence, a vote toward re-certification. (See "Daniel’s Certification No Clearer After Contentious Board of Elections Meeting.")
The elections system subsequently sent Daniel a letter stating that he had been certified by the board as a Constitutional Convention delegate.
The system has not yet sent any official letter to St. Thomas candidate Lisa Williams, who would lose her seat once Daniel is certified. Elections officials said Monday that Williams was not certified as a delegate since Daniel's appeal was, at the time, still going through the legal process.
On Monday, however, the board voted to reconsider the motion and this time decided not to execute Carroll's order. Emerging from a 45-minute executive session, board members announced that they had instead decided, based on a recommendation from board counsel Terrlyn Smock, to appeal the judge's decision. The appeal would also place a halt on swearing-in ceremonies for Constitutional Convention delegates until a final ruling has been made.
Voting for the appeal were board members Claudette Georges, Lorna A.C. Thomas and Arturo Watlington Jr. Board member Colette White-Amaro voted against the motion.
Absent from the meeting was board chairman Larry Boschulte, board vice-chair Alecia Wells and board member Leona Smith. At last week's board meeting, Wells and Boschulte were among the members who had voted to re-certify the results and seat Daniel as a delegate.
Speaking after the meeting, Thomas explained that the decision to appeal was not based on Daniel, but rather on the fact that Carroll's decision would set a "dangerous precedent" for future elections. Residents cast their votes based on the revised ballots and the board's interpretation of the law, Thomas said.
"The results of those votes were based on the requirements we set," she said. "So you can't change the results now to reflect different requirements. It's an apples-and-oranges conversation."
"If the judge felt that the ballot was inconsistent with the law, then he should have decided to hold a new election," Watlington added. "Because the election results were originally certified based on the ballot we put out, the board, therefore, can only count the votes based on that ballot. And since the judge didn't decide to invalidate the ballot, he can't contest the certification."
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