The St. Croix Elections Board met Thursday and Friday to discuss procedures and deadlines for the 2016 elections with representatives from the territory’s three registered political parties and attempted to initiate a Joint Board meeting both days without success.
On Thursday, the board intended to hear plans from representatives of the Republican, Democratic and Independent Citizens Movement parties about their intentions to nominate candidates or host a primary election at their expense.
The only party representatives at the meeting were Donna Christensen, former delegate to Congress, and Lauretta Petersen, both members the Democratic Party. They did not have a plan or procedure for the primary and no one from the ICM or Republican parties showed up for the meeting. The Republican Party sent a copy of their 2014 plan but no cover letter stating that it continues to use the procedure.
On Friday, St. Croix Board Chairwoman Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal and members Adelbert Bryan, Glenn Webster and Lisa Harris-Moorhead discussed imposing a deadline of April 10 for the parties to submit written procedures and possible fines if they don’t, but a motion was not made.
There is debate whether the V.I. Code has placed the responsibility for primaries on the board or the political parties, and the St. Croix board has interpreted the law to require their participation to be only certifying the results and monitoring irregularities.
Harris-Moorhead said the Republican Party has only requested the board certify the election and “look at it.”
“My role is to certify the Republican process,” Bryan agreed.
The board approved a motion at the January meeting to request the Attorney General Clyde Walker provide an interpretation of the law but to date that has not been forthcoming. Walker was not at Friday’s meeting.
A scheduled March 10 meeting with Sen. Kenneth Gittens and the Rules and Judiciary Committee, which closely reviewed each Elections statute over the last few months, could answer many questions and correct discrepancies in the law. The committee has perused the V.I. Code line by line and intends to make necessary changes to clarify and correct statutes.
The Legislature must enact any changes six months before the election to comply with federal law.
Not only does the board want the question of primary elections clarified, but also who constitute “officers” and what are their duties during elections and other issues.
On Friday, the board members discussed the election calendar and decided to study each date and the corresponding statute before approving the document for the public. If one date is incorrect, all of the dates are wrong, Harris-Moorhead pointed out.
They also decided to charge the Elections staff with determining whether judges and other workers are needed for polling sites and to review and approve the list of polling sites.
Belardo de O’Neal said the appropriate staff from the Department of Education will be formally invited to the March meeting to provide updates on the condition of the schools that are used for voting.
The board also discussed testing and “dusting off” voting machines two months before the election.
On Thursday, a Joint Board meeting was scheduled through videoconferencing by Bryan, vice-chairman of the Joint Board and a petition signed by St. Croix members, but only St. Thomas/St. John member Diane Magras showed up for the district.
Magras said at the time she would make a motion to join meetings on Friday and Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said she would turn on the videoconferencing equipment so both sides could participate.
At Friday’s St. Croix meeting, a “cell phone notification” from Angel Bolques Jr. deputy supervisor of the St. Thomas-St. John Board, informed them that the majority of the St. Thomas-St. John members “discussed and decided not to have a teleconference.” No reasons or substitute dates were provided.