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District Boards to Conduct Audit of Primary Election

The St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections will meet Friday afternoon to begin an audit of the August primary that will determine if there are any discrepancies in ballot numbers from the new voting machines.

The decision was made Thursday at a Joint Board meeting that started last week, was recessed and reconvened this week to allow board members to finish up the items on their agenda. St. Croix’s District Board will also be conducting a similar audit, but a final day was not decided upon during Thursday’s meeting.

The audit involves recounting a sampling of ballots from four polling sites on St. Thomas: Gomez Elementary School, Dober Elementary north and south and the Charlotte Amalie High School gym.

St. Thomas-St. John District Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. explained after the meeting that the sampling is similar to what states like New York City do in order to verify their elections. In New York, the standard is recounting approximately 10 percent of ballots cast but on St. Thomas board members will be going over a little more than 20 percent in order to complete the audit, Watlington said.

Elections Systems officials said a little more than 5,000 ballots were cast during last month’s primary, including 1,080 absentee ballots. Ballots cast at Gomez School alone totaled 500, which would put the board over the 10 percent mark, Watlington said.

"We’re auditing to make sure the reports that we got from the machines are consistent with the real numbers," he added. "No one has verified that the information we got is accurate, so we’re doing this sampling of the polling places to prove that the count was correct."

Watlington said New York’s standard allows for a less than 5 percent margin of error. Since the board is counting at least 1,000 ballots, there should then be a less than 1 percent margin – a difference, Watlington said, of maybe one or two ballots.

"In our case, a jump drive from the machines is what has been used to report the information, so we have a duty now to make sure that information is in line with the ballots that were really cast," he added.

According to the Joint Board’s vote, the audit should be conducted within 60 days of the election. A similar audit will also be conducted for the November general election, officials said Thursday.

During Thursday’s meeting, the Joint Board also went over corrections to the November general election ballot and looked at ordering additional equipment.

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