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HomeNewsArchivesFrom Governor on Down, Voters Line Up on St. Thomas

From Governor on Down, Voters Line Up on St. Thomas

Nov. 4, 2008 — Just a few short hours after the polls opened Tuesday morning, Charlotte Amalie High School Annex on St. Thomas was so packed with voters that even the governor had to stand in line for a few minutes before getting to head inside and cast his ballot.
It didn't seem to be a problem, though — in fact, deJongh said afterward that he was excited by the spirit of this year's election season, which he said has actually been boosted on the local level by voters' excitement over what's been unfolding on the mainland in the 2008 presidential race.
"I think the entire Virgin Islands is going to have a party when these election results come in," deJongh said Tuesday. "A number of Virgin Islanders have been part of this national campaign, and I think that it definitely shows how involved we are in terms of politics."
Many camped outside CAHS Tuesday echoed deJongh's sentiments, saying they have been inspired by the ideals displayed and the standards set by Illinois senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
"I see a lot of our candidates here using a lot of Sen. Obama's issues — like the economy, education and the energy crisis — and incorporating them into their platforms," said St. Thomas resident Vivian Thomas. "And I think, in terms of voter turnout, that more people are going to come out later in the afternoon, once they get a better sense of what's happening in the national election and who the winner is going to be."
CAHS saw its fair share of voters Tuesday: by 10 a.m., nearly 290 people had already voted at the school's annex. Campaign workers and supporters by the dozens lined both sides of the street running in front of the campus. Some supporters were even stationed outside the hospital, Kmart in Lockhart Shopping Plaza and Oswald Harris Court.
Many said they were out supporting new candidates they believe will bring fresh ideas to the Legislature, such as Tregenza Roach; Mario Francis, also a delegate to the Fifth Constitutional Convention; and Patrick Simeon Sprauve, recently tapped by the local Democratic Party to take over for former Sen. Basil Ottley Jr.
"There are a lot of issues that need to have more of a focus put on them," said Roberto A. Francis, Mario Francis' brother. "For example, we need to focus more on youth and education, and have dedicated job-training programs. We need to focus on the environment, and I know that's Mario's greatest passion — looking at more natural energy sources, like solar, wind and natural gas. I think he's going to win, and I think he'll make a lot of difference in the Virgin Islands. But if he doesn't, then we're going to be out here again in the next two years, doing the same thing."
Others gathered in groups to support old favorites, such as incumbent Sens. Louis P. Hill and Shawn-Michael Malone, who were also the two top vote-getters is this year's primary. Hill's track record — particularly his call for an audit of Schneider Regional Medical Center — shows that he "keeps his focus on the people and where their money is going," said supporter St. Claire St. Luce.
Around noon, Joseph Sibilly School had already recorded about 580 voters.
"Based on my experience in previous elections, that is about 50 percent of what we usually get during the General Election — and it's expected that the number will grow, since we've been seeing a steady stream throughout the morning," said Daphne Hodge, Elections judge. "The turnout has been very good this year."
Sitting outside the school's gates, campaign workers tried to draw the attention of passersby.
"I've lived here 17 years and this is the first time I've participated in the voting process here," said St. Thomas resident Delphine Olivacce. "But I'm excited about this election, and that's all because of Lisa Williams — this woman's special."
By 2 p.m, Joseph Gomez School in Anna's Retreat had recorded 745 voters, which Elections judges said is "about average" for a non-gubernatorial General Election.
Judges at polling stations on the island, such as Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, also said the turnout was about average. As of about 1:30 p.m., Kean had about 336 voters.
"The polling place was more busy last time," said Elections Judge Glencia Steele, recalling the gubernatorial election two years ago. "Today is just senators and boards."
She said she couldn't identify any huge difference in demographics.
Those who did come out to vote at Kean cited specific reasons for participating in this year's election.
"We have a lot of economic problems," said St. Thomas resident Paul Giminez. "We are going to get the backlash [from the economic downturn on the mainland] and it's already starting to hit," he saidd, pointing out the level of activity on Main Street and noting that travel agents say bookings have fallen off.
"We need people who are serious about finding solutions to the economic problems we already face and finding solutions for new revenue for the island," Giminez said.
Tuesday was 19-year-old Liston Cantois Jr.'s first time at the polls.
"Voting feels like you're more grown up, you're more responsible, what you think counts," Cantois said, adding that people his age should "give our voice and make a change."
"It should be a law that we vote for president," he added. "We have 'U.S.' as a part of our title — we should have the right as a U.S. citizen."
While Addelita Cancryn Junior High abounded with energy, noise and color Tuesday, the scene at Ulla Muller Elementary School was unusually subdued.
Campaigners at Cancryn loudly touted their candidates' virtues — or at least their ballot numbers — while a calypso beat sounded over the general din.
Proudly swinging a Hill sign, tiny Elizabeth "Lellel" Aubain was almost swallowed in a bright blue Hill T-shirt.
"I'm 79," Aubain said. "And I've voted every election since I was 18, at Washington School — it's now Marcelli — but this is the first time I've worked on a campaign."
Aubain told one and all: "My life's on a hill, I live on a hill, I walk up a hill to get home, and I'm voting for a Hill."
As of noon, Cancryn had 430 voters, according to veteran election judge Ivy B. Williams.
"I think it's overshadowed by the national election," she said. "In fact, a couple of voters asked where Obama's name was on the ballot. I guess they were new voters. I wish it were on our ballot."
Things were slow Tuesday at Muller, said judge Diana Spiver-Dowe.
"You're not hearing the noise you usually hear outside this year," she said. "It's slow."
Her section had only 217 voters by noon. The other section fared somewhat better, with about 448 by noon.
One Muller voter had a lot to say about the voting process.
"I'm only voting for a few locally, because the national election has had my interest," said businessman and artist Holland VanGores. "As long as [there are] electronic machines, I can't be confident about how my vote will be counted. There should be paper ballots."
Actually, two-thirds of the nation will use paper ballots this year, according to the N.Y. Times, but paper ballots bring their own problems with tabulation. The V.I. uses electronic machines exclusively.
Dissatisfaction with the incumbents was a steady theme, and not just for the pay raises they granted themselves in Act 6905. One businesswoman expressed disgust with what she called a "lack of information" about the new candidates.
"I know nothing about these persons, and my confidence level with the incumbent is zero," she said. "I've gone to the Senate hearings o
n the energy bill and some of the senators don't even show up. They are highly paid to attend these meetings."
It's the third election for Glenette Duporte, a St. Kitts native. She was excited by her first opportunity to vote, but that has changed dramatically.
"The incumbents don't know what they're doing," she said. "All they want is the dollars. How about me, how about my WAPA bill? It's doubled."
Duporte was somewhat more sanguine about two first-time candidates.
"I'll vote for Myron Jackson and Tregenza Roach," she said. "I promised them I would."
Though still marching in to vote, one voter who has had a business on the island for years, said, "It's the same old gang of crooks, and we'll get to elect a few new ones."
No matter their political persuasion, the prevailing concern among local voters was the high cost of energy — WAPA bills and gasoline. That and the national election were first in the minds of everyone the Source encountered.
Twelve-year old Obama supporter Que-J Brown took time out from selling food and drinks in front of Cancryn to raise funds for the Environmental Rangers.
"I think he (Obama) has lots of changes coming and they are the right changes, like lowering gas prices," he said.
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