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Election Day Turnout Strong on St. John

Nov. 4, 2008 — While voting was the main event at Tuesday's Election Day on St. John, it was also a chance for voters to catch up with friends and enjoy some Caribbean cooking.
"Where else on the planet is a lady frying fish outside a voting booth?" asked St. John resident Anne Marie Porter.
The "lady" in question was Jane Johannes, and she had a hot pot going across the street from the Guy Benjamin School polling place in Coral Bay.
"I do it every year," Johannes said.
As Porter headed home with her Styrofoam plate of fried fish, St. John residents talked about why they came out to vote. Josephine Roller, stopping by to chat with Johannes, said she always votes.
"But I feel really bad that I can't vote for Obama," she said.
She expressed the thought of several people at both the Coral Bay and Cruz Bay polling places. Clemmie Moses, carrying an Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg sign but wearing an Obama button, said she wouldn't vote Barak Obama just because he's black.
"He's the best candidate," said Moses, who is black.
Several people said they thought the excitement over the national election energized people to vote in the Virgin Islands.
While there were no lines in Coral Bay, where 81 people had voted by 10:40 a.m., Cruz Bay's Julius E. Sprauve polling place was another story. A small line stretched out the door of the school's cafeteria.
Elections judge Gwendolyn Abraham said at about 11:30 a.m. the Board of Elections instructed her not to give out current information on the number of people who voted. But as of 10 a.m., she said, 169 people had voted.
One of those was Will Leib, who said he voted because his vote counts, thanks to the territory's small population.
Pat Harley said she would cast her ballot for someone who's honest and sincere.
"That's my issues," she said.
Others spoke of issues that concerned them such as the economy and the high cost of electricity and gas.
Porter said she wouldn't vote for any senator who approved the large pay raises for themselves at the end of the 26th Legislature. She said she also took in to account who voted to approve a variance that essentially allowed the Sirenusa condominium project to expand.
Stephen Hull, a resident of Evergreen, Colo., stumped for former Sen. Craig Barshinger in Coral Bay and later in Cruz Bay. Even though he can't vote, he said, he has a vacation villa on St. John and pays property taxes.
"The island is important to us," he said. "We're sick and tired of the Legislature doing things that don't make sense."
While St. John voters push buttons for the seven St. Thomas/St. John District senators, as well as an at-large candidate, the at-large race captured a lot of attention.
Vickie Brown supported Barshinger, who is running in hopes of regaining his seat.
"He's honest and speaks the truth and follows though," she said.
Earl Thomas said he was there to support Sen. Carmen Wesselhoft because she's focused on seniors.
"They always seem to be overlooked," he said.
While things seemed to go smoothly Tuesday, at least one would-be voter was unhappy. Sherrie Bunge said she waited in line for one hour and 15 minutes at the Cruz Bay polling place, only to be told she couldn't vote because her name wasn't on the list of registered voters — despite having a voter-registration card.
"I was very upset," she said. "I still have the card. It has no expiration date."
People's names get purged from the rolls if they don't vote in two consecutive elections, said Natalie Thomas, deputy elections supervisor at the V.I. Board of Elections' St. Thomas office.
Bunge said she's sure she didn't vote in the 2006 election because she was off island, but can't remember whether she voted in the 2004 election.
The Board of Elections sends out a written notice to people about to be removed from the election rolls, Thomas said, but Bunge said she didn't receive one.
While Thomas allowed that the poll workers should have offered Bunge a provisional ballot that allows people to vote on election day when their names is not on the rolls, Bunge said no one offered her this type of ballot, and she didn't know to ask. The Board of Elections investigates the matter after the election is over to determine whether to count the provisional ballot.
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