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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, June 27, 2022
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Supervisor of Elections Taking the Reins

Territorial Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes laid down the rules to the St. Croix Board of Elections on new email procedures, protocols for dealing with elections staff, use of the department vehicle and other matters during the board’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday.

"Starting in 30 days, you must use your official email address for all work-related correspondence," Fawkes said during her report to the board. Fawkes said she had worked with the Bureau of Information Technology to set up temporary email addresses with the vi.gov suffix, but the addresses may change to something more specific to the election system at a later date.

Board member Rupert Ross asked Fawkes to clarify the purpose or function of the new email addresses.

"Coming from a military background, you don’t mix the professional and personal, and if you use the personal email, when they come for an inspection or audit, they would access your personal email and computer and I’m sure you don’t want that," Fawkes said.

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Fawkes said she had taken possession of the keys to the Election System’s one vehicle on St. Croix and had it inspected. It needs a new battery. This year, Property and Procurement is saying each agency must pay for any auto parts, "so we are waiting on a purchase order and then we will get our battery replaced," she said.

Fawkes said she wanted to set up videoconferencing so the Joint Boards of Elections could save money on transportation, but first the board’s bylaw need to be amended to allow voting over video or phone link.

The St. Croix Board of Elections and St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections are responsible for running elections in their respective districts. The Joint Boards of Elections is comprised of the members of both boards. It selects the supervisor and deputy supervisors of election and sets some policies to ensure some degree of uniformity in procedure between the districts.

After Fawkes’ report, board member Lisa Moorhead moved that the St. Croix Board of Election formally request the Joint Boards to change the bylaws to allow voting over videoconference.

Voting in favor of the motion were Moorhead, St. Croix Chairman Adelbert Bryan, Roland Moolenaar, Liliana Belardo de O’Neal, Rupert Ross and Glenn Webster. Board member Raymond Williams was absent.

After the meeting had formally adjourned, Fawkes gave a PowerPoint "orientation" presentation to St. Croix board members, outlining procedures for the board and talking, in general terms, about how to make board meetings more efficient and productive.

Simon Jones-Hendrickson, dean of the University of the Virgin Islands College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, gave a short talk with advice on how to make boards run more effectively and cooperatively.

Fawkes said meeting notices and agendas need to be published well in advance, as the law requires, and that executive sessions should be rare, with the specific legal justification for the closed meeting given in open meeting.

"Everyone is familiar with the sunshine laws and the open meetings act and we need to do better," Fawkes said.

The board, as a whole as well as individual members, cannot give direction to election system staff and should not be directly interacting with staff, she said.

"The board can’t usurp the supervisor’s authority or intervene in day-to-day administration," Fawkes said. The only person the St. Croix Board deals with directly is the head Election System staffer on St. Croix, Tricia Johnson, Fawkes said.

When Fawkes is not there, Johnson or Sharon Benjamin, head Election System staffer on St. Thomas, is in charge, she said.

But Fawkes also exhorted the board to establish succession rules that "designate in writing who is in charge when I am out."

Fawkes also reported that she had submitted a response to a recent audit of the election system.

The audit was compiled by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General on behalf of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The report is still in draft form and has not been made public yet.

On Aug. 31, the St. Croix Board of Elections met briefly to receive draft copies of an audit documenting how funds awarded to the Virgin Islands under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 were spent.

"I submitted a response Sept. 30 to the Inspector General’s Office," said Fawkes. She did not disclose the audit’s conclusions or her response, saying "it is not public information yet, until the auditors release it."

Fawkes also reported on the Election System Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which the Senate passed Sept. 26.

The Senate appropriated $1.2 million from the General Fund to the Office of the Supervisor of Elections: $71,489 to the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections and $77,818 to the St. Croix Board of Elections, Fawkes reported. Those figures amount to a $63,000 reduction in the election system budget; a $5,551 reduction to the St. Croix board and a $4,000 reduction to the St. Thomas/St. John board, she said.

The system may also receive some federal funding, she said.

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