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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024
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LWV Hears About Election Reform

The 43rd annual meeting of the V. I. League of Women Voters established two things right off: Speaker Delegate Donna Christensen is running for Congress and had no comment on a future run for governor.

Christensen said that she definitely is running for Congress this year. Speaking before the meeting, Christensen said that she knew there was some speculation on the issue. "I don’t know how this confusion got started, but I am definitely running," she said. As far as a future run for governor, Christensen declined comment.

Supervisor of Elections John Abramson, speaking before the audience all but guaranteed the Department of Justice will sue the Virgin Islands for failure to comply with MOVE, the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which requires absentee ballots be transmitted at least 45 days before the general election. Because of the August 4 primary election date, Abramson said, it would be impossible to know the candidates at that time.

The Legislature voted Friday to move primary elections up a month to comply with MOVE.
Meantime, LVW president Gwen-Marie Moolenaar complimented her spare membership Saturday on what she called their "major victories" through a small number of members who worked tirelessly.

Moolenaar cited the work of Helen Gjessing and Erva Denham working with community partners to defeat what she called the "ill-conceived Alpine proposal, and in advocating for approved EPA approaches to managing solid waste, recycling, reduction, reuse and commercial composting."

Gjessing, a 40-plus-year member and chair of the Planning and Environmental Quality Committee, said "Everyone concerned with the cost of power in the Virgin Islands should stop complaining about the LEAC and accept ways to reduce, reduce, reduce [power consumption]."

Referring to WAPA’s proposal for a submarine power link to Puerto Rico, Gjessing asked, "Why not a pilot Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion project? That would be no more an example of throwing money at an unproved proposal than all the funds consumed by the submarine scheme."

Christensen and Abramson discussed "Preparing for Election Change," a subject dear to the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the audience, who sat glued to every word.

As she and Abramson discussed election change, and the restructuring of the Legislature, nary a pin drop could have distracted the crowd.

Christensen, who said she has "always favored a part time legislature," said districting was likely the best option, but, along with numbered seats, it, too, would create dissension.

She also discussed a letter she wrote earlier this month to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asking them to visit the territory to review what is transpiring in regards to the status of elections in the Virgin Islands this year.

"Our constituency is expressing grave concerns as to the conduct of fair and impartial elections this year because of funding issues and actions by the Joint Board of Elections," she wrote, "which are requiring political parties to fund their own primaries."

Christensen said the territory should pay for public office races, not party officials. "Only four states do that," she emphasized.

She said she needed the EAC to assist her in assessing the integrity of our electoral system and to assuage the fears of the electorate. She wrote that she would like a member of the Commission’s staff to travel to the Virgin Islands to meet with local officials and members of the public.

Christensen said, "I wrote to the EAC primarily to see if they could help alleviate the concerns in the community. An election challenged in the courts is the last thing we need."

Christensen stressed that "In 1999, Congress gave the V.I. Legislature the ability to set our own size and structure."

The legislature also passed voters’ right to vote with paper ballots in Friday’s session, a move that neither Abramson nor Christensen endorse. "It’s a move by a small group of ignorant people, and they were wrong," Abramson said, adding that he is known for being candid.

"It takes us backward," Abramson said, while defending the Shouptronic voting machines, which he said have no way to be connected to the Internet or accessed remotely. "The machines are certified each election season," he said. And, he noted that the machines have a paper trail.

Abramson added the territory "dodged a bullet in 2010" regarding the MOVE act. In August of that year, federal officials had threatened to sue the territory for non-compliance. "They could have sought a temporary restraining order against our election, but it turned out that there was no delegate race that year," Abramson said.

Afterwards, the audience peppered the speakers with questions primarily geared to how to reduce the number of V. I. Senators, an enormously popular notion with many in the community with no immediate solution in the offing, it turns out.

Abramson said the St. Thomas office of the Election System of the Virgin Islands will at last be moving from its tiny and crowded Crystal Gade location to new quarters above Banco Popular in Lockhart Shopping Center in June. "Yes," he said to an immediate concern, "it will have an elevator."

In action after lunch, Kim Bourne-Vanneck, Lisa LaPlace, and Erva Denham were elected to the LWV Board of Directors.

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