Members of the St. Croix District Board of Elections continued, at a meeting Wednesday, the slow work of replacing the district’s voting machines with new paper ballot tabulators.
Board member Roland Moolenaar reported that the new DS-200 voting machines had been delivered and were currently being stored by Fleming Trucking “under lock and key.”
Moolenaar said he was making spot checks of the equipment at least three times a week to ensure the machines are not tampered with.
He also presented the board with a rough list of possible locations to conduct public demonstrations, though he stressed that none were written in stone and encouraged the other members to help him edit the list.
Board member Rupert Ross suggested the board should begin working on a written policy concerning how voters should use the machines and how elections staff should handle malfunctions. Ross said it was essential that the policy be consistent in both districts.
St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan replied that the company that built the new voting machines was sending personnel to the territory to train election staff on how to operate the tabulators Aug. 5-8. He said he believed any policy should be adapted directly from what is learned at the sessions.
The board also discussed where to store the old voting machines. Ross said he contacted the Department of Property and Procurement and was told they may be able to supply a government storage facility.
Bryan said the law dictated that the voting machines remain in the possession of the Board of Elections, so they would need to have control over any storage facility offered by Property and Procurement. Ross replied that he didn’t think this would be a problem.
The board voted to instruct Bryan to formally request assistance from Property and Procurement in finding an appropriate storage area. Voting in favor were members Bryan, Ross, Moolenaar, Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Glenn Webster and Liliana de O’Neil. Raymond Williams was absent.
The board also discussed several outstanding compliance issues.
Bryan insisted the board needed to start looking for other buildings to house the St. Croix elections office in case Stephanie Barnes, the V.I. government’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, deemed the current building unsuitable.
Barnes had voiced concerns about the building’s compliance at a previous board meeting but has not issued a formal report.
Bryan said he would prefer to house the elections office in the vacant bottom floor of the Government Employee Retirement System, because that way their rent would flow back into the government rather than going to a private landlord.
Harris-Moorhead said the board should make an effort to convince their current landlord to foot the bill of making the office ADA compliant. She said in order to do so, they would need an official report from Barnes to outline the scope of work.
The board voted to instruct members to make an assessment of the current building and deliver that report to Barnes for review. Voting in favor were members Bryan, Ross, Moolenaar, Harris-Moorhead, O’Neil and Webster. Williams was absent.
Harris-Moorhead also pointed out that the territory was still not in compliance with the federal Military and Oversees Voter Empowerment Act, which says states must make absentee ballots available no later than 45 days before elections.
In order to comply with this statute, the V.I. Code must be amended to move up filing dates for candidates so election officials have enough time to print and send out ballots. This has not yet been done.
Harris-Moorhead and Ross volunteered to draft a proposal to the legislature stating exactly what laws need to be changed to bring the territory into compliance.
“Our recommendations have to be clear because, in this instance, it will stop the election. The feds have made it clear,” she said. “As long as there is a federal position on the slate…they can shut the election down.”
This led to a larger conversation about other election laws that need to be updated. Board members expressed frustration that an “election reform committee” set up by the joint board of elections had not issued a report and, according to Harris-Moorhead, had not even met yet.
The board voted to officially ask Alecia Wells, the chairwoman of the Joint Board of Elections, to instruct the election reform committee to meet and release an update of its progress. Voting in favor were members Bryan, Moolenaar, Harris-Moorhead and O’Neil. Webster and Williams were absent.
Ross voted no to the measure in protest, saying the St. Croix board should not wait for the joint board to act on such an important topic and should take the matter into its own hands.
“Because they don’t do it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it,” he said.
The board also scheduled a meeting for Monday to prepare a budget for Fiscal Year 2014 before their Senate budget hearing on July 24.