The St. Croix Board of Elections agreed Wednesday afternoon to recount ballots for Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Sen. Diane Capehart and Epiphane Joseph, candidate for the Elections Board, after several candidates filed petitions questioning the accuracy of the Nov. 4 general election.
The Virgin Islands Code gives candidates seven working days after an election has been certified to file notarized petitions disputing the results to the Board of Elections. The board then has three working days to consider the recount request and if they approve votes must be re-tabulated within 10 days, according to Title 18, sec. 629 of the V.I. Code. Monday is the deadline for a recount.
According to the law, a candidate can request a recount if “the petitioner has reason to believe and does believe that the records or copies of records made by the election officers at one or more polling places in such district are erroneous.” The petitioner also must specify where and how the errors occurred and their belief that a recount would alter the election results, the Code states.
The board members – Raymond Williams, Liliana Belardo de O’Neal, Roland Moolenaar and Lisa Harris-Moorhead – had gathered initially Wednesday to tally write-in ballots and decided to convene a meeting since there was a quorum. De O’Neal, as vice president, conducted the meeting.
“The meeting was called by the chairman and everyone sent reasons why they couldn’t be here by 9:30. I am participating (now) because the matter has to be done,” Williams said adding the meeting could have been set in the afternoon.
Williams pointed out, and Harris-Moorhead agreed, that the meeting should have been sooner because Hansen’s petition was received Friday or Saturday. They said the board was not notified until Monday.
“If I was Sen. Hansen, I would take it to court, because we failed to act,” Williams said.
Harris-Moorhead admitted that the board would not be able to provide statistics in a court without recounting the votes for Hansen.
“The board has no way of auditing the votes received by Sen. Hansen. The only way is to do an actual recount,” she said.
The board planned to audit Hansen’s write-in ballots the day the election was certified. It wasn’t done and Harris-Moorhead said now the board doesn’t know the procedure used by the staff to separate write-ins. She pointed out the Joint Board of Elections agreed before Nov. 4 to “honor the voter’s intent,” when possible to extract names from the DS200.
“There was no distinct count, which is incumbent on us to do unless the staff can tell us how they did it,”
The board discussed and then voted that Hansen, Capehart and Joseph’s documents were filed properly and within the time limit. Naomi Joseph’s request was denied because the petition was submitted late and without a notary’s signature. Roberto James’s request was turned down because he was not a candidate for office.
Hansen was allowed to make a statement and said she preferred to settle out of court and agreed with a recount. She asked about a date, but none was set.
The board agreed to contact the Attorney General right away to see if there was leeway in holding a recount since this is a holiday weekend and the tabulation should be completed by Monday.
Bryan was absent from the meeting and Rupert Ross and Glenn Webster were off-island.
In the morning, Bryan, the only board member present at 9:30, said he didn’t accept quorums by phone or email. He suggested Hansen’s petition was not valid because she received 2,600 votes fewer than the seventh successful senatorial candidates.
The seventh winning St. Croix senator was Nereida Rivera O’Reilly with 4,755 votes. Naomi Joseph received 3,385 votes, Capehart accumulated 3,130, and the certified election tally for Hansen was 2,089. Epiphane Joseph, candidate for the Elections Board, received 2,033 votes and the final winning candidate Barbara Jackson McIntosh took 4,441.
On St. Thomas, the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections voted Wednesday to reject six petitions for recount, calling the charges of fraud baseless, and reminding the petitioners they can always file suit in court.