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HomeNewsArchivesAre Voters Excited by Upcoming Election? Depends on Who You Ask

Are Voters Excited by Upcoming Election? Depends on Who You Ask

Oct. 29, 2008 – Ask the folks at the Board of Elections offices on St. Thomas and St. Croix whether voters are interested in this year's local election, and the answer is, yes. But ask the guy on the street, and chances are you'll get a different story.
Voter registration this year is consistent with registration in 2004, the last non-gubernatorial election year according to the territory's supervisor of elections, John Abramson, Jr. In fact, according to Abramson, he's seeing a slight up-tick in the registration numbers.
"We anticipated it because of the excitement of the national presidential election," Abramson said. "It sparked a number of individuals to want to participate. I think it’s important that we keep in mind we are connected to national politics."
Territory wide, there are a total of 50,948 registered voters, which takes into account the recent purging of some 6,000 people from the registration list. These are people who did not vote in the last two general elections and were eliminated from the roster after failing to respond to a Board of Election mailing.
But ask some of those 50,000 people how they feel about pulling levers for senators, board of education and board of election candidates, as well as the delegate to Congress, come Nov. 4, and answers range from apathetic, to disgust with the occasional enthusiasm sprinkled in. Responses also depended, to some extent, on where folks lived. For some St. Johnians, feeling disenfranchised is an issue.
St. John is treated like a forgotten child that gets the leftovers or nothing at all from the senators, according to Guy Benjamin, who voted already on absentee ballot.
"I was looking for those who were not there before because those who are there don't do anything for us," he said.
While St. John voters pick the senators from the St. Thomas/St. John district, only the at-large senator must live on St. John. However, voters from all islands vote for the at-large senator. With a little more than 1,800 voters on St. John, residents know their votes carry little weight.
"It's very depressing," said one woman who declined to give her name, but who did volunteer that high property taxes was her major issue.
On St. Croix, most of the 14 voters polled declined to give their names and usually declined to say which candidates they were supporting, but the majority did say they'd be turning out on Tuesday.
"It's just more of the same. I'm not for any of the senators," said one man, who nevertheless admitted he was going to vote, driven by concern over power bills and education.
Ruth Bermudez-Cruz, wasn't very excited about the election, but she is planning to vote, and to select senators who align with Gov. John deJongh.
"The governor is working hard," Bermudez-Cruz said. "I'd like to see more of the senators trying to back the governor. The governor does a good job but the senators, they don't cooperate."
On St. Thomas, of nearly two dozen people polled, several refused to comment or give their names, and a great number of people expressed real disinterest in the election. One woman, who didn't give her name, said she's fed up, in particular with her Water and Power Authority bills.
"I usually work during the elections as a volunteer," the woman said. "Not only do I not plan on voting this year, but for the first time, I don't even think I'm going to work during the election. I went to a lot of the senators and told them that my light bill had gone up from about $500 to over $1,000, and no one even got back to me. I'm not excited about this election at all."
Bruce Spratley, a police officer, concurred that senators do not seem responsive enough.
"The issue is we need change," Spratley said. "But some of these senators are in there a long time and you never hear from them again. And the new ones coming in," he said, pondering, "I don't know about them."
As for the newest possible voters in the territory, elections supervisor Abramson said there's been a "spike" in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who are registering. A quick poll of a half dozen University of the Virgin Islands students on St. Thomas found them divided down the middle regarding their enthusiasm for the election.
"I procrastinated so much," confessed Miriam Welderufael, a 21-year-old UVI student from California who's a big supporter of Barack Obama, but who didn't arrange for an absentee ballot in her home state. Welderufael's guilt is lessened, she said, by the fact that California is heavily in favor of Obama and she felt her absentee vote wasn't as crucial.
Hearing that her friend had failed to vote, 20-year-old Amber Knight, who's from the Virgin Islands, declared, "I'm upset." Knight said she's studying the senate candidates and plans to pull the lever for those whom she believes will support the governor.
"You can't leave it to chance," she said.

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