*Correction: See Editor’s Note Below* Sen. Jean Forde admitted he was trying to find a loophole in a new law that prohibits electioneering within 200 feet of the border of a polling station, but there does not appear to be one.
Maurice Donovan, a candidate for the Board of Elections, said the new law would do away with an important part of Virgin Islands culture.
Residents, even if they are not taking part in the election process, are familiar with the party scenes around polling places where supporters show their passion for their candidates.
The V.I. Legislature passed an electioneering law in April and the primary Saturday will be the first election it affects.
Sen. Myron Jackson, a fervent opponent of the legislation, was also at the Thursday meeting sponsored by the St. Thomas-St. John District Election Board, where Donovan and Forde, and about a dozen other candidates or their representative, expressed concerns about the law.
Jackson’s comments against the law were generally drowned out by voices of protest.
Candidate Patrick Sprauve said the law effectively outlaws electioneering. He continued, “This is our culture. This is a travesty.”
Conrad Francois, who represented Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett at the meeting, said the law would change what her campaign would be doing on Election Day. He did see a silver lining though. He said, “We can look at this as a cost-cutting measure.”
Election Board member Alecia Wells pointed out that not everyone is happy with the enthusiastic electioneering that goes on outside polling places. She said she talked to people at the Turnbull Regional Library and that the people at the library, a new polling station, were adamantly against electioneering near its entrance.
Sgt. Sherrwann Hughes represented the V.I. Police Department at the meeting. She said that this was the first she had heard of the law and that it might be necessary to put barricades in place around the polling stations.
Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. said that would not be necessary because Board of Elections would be out in the hours running up to Saturday’s primary measuring the 200-foot distance and putting up signs saying that electioneering within that space was prohibited.
Watlington said he called the meeting because the law “is very, very important.” He said it will “affect the way we have been holding elections in the Virgin Islands since I have been alive.”
Ford suggested the discussion at the meeting should be whether the law should be enforced this election.
Watlington disagreed. He said, “I don’t think that discussion should be held here; that should be heard in the Legislature.”
Watlington said he was disappointed in the Legislature for passing the law but that it was “specific and clear” in what it was saying.
Editor’s Note: Sen. Myron Jackson was a strong opponent of the new law. When first published this story was in error on that point.