Ballots Raise Concerns for Some on St. Croix

St. Croix District Election Board Chairwoman Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal and Elections System Supervisor Caroline Fawkes agreed Wednesday that everything was in place for a “successful 2016 General Election in the Virgin Islands.” However, some in the audience held different opinions.

Scott Liburd said Fawkes’ “explanation made no sense” as to why the ballot had candidates printed on both sides. Board member and former Sen. Adelbert Bryan brought the issue up early in the meeting saying that a voter seeing a great deal of empty space on the front side of the ballot would not think it necessary to turn the ballot over to look for more races.

Fawkes said that, although there was space to print everything on St. Croix ballot on one side; there was not enough space to print all St. Thomas race on one side (St. Thomas has more candidates). She said the decision was made to keep both ballots in similar format and to have them both printed two-sided.

Liburd said, “Every election, the board and the supervisor try to confuse voters.”

Loretta Petersen of the V.I. Democrat Party also had problems with the ballot. She said the ballots were supposed to have the symbols of the political party to which they belonged by their candidate’s names. The symbols do not appear on the ballot. She said the ballot were “in total incompliance with the law.”

Several people said they were concerned about how former Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen’s and Sen. Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly’s names appear on the ballots. They said that either a nickname or the given name was to appear on the ballot but not both.

Testing of the ballots and voting machines is Thursday and may put to rest another concern about the ballots brought up by Bryan. He asked whether the marking on one side of the ballot might “bleed through” affecting tabulations of votes on the other side of the ballot.

The St. Croix board approved the following dates concerning the General Election:

–                 Training for elections officials will be Nov. 4 through 6 at 5:30 p.m. each evening at Herbert Gregg Cafeteria.

–                 Poll workers will have a meeting at St. Croix Educational Complex Auditorium also at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 3.

At the last board meeting, members moved that funds be found to make the Juanita Gardine Elementary School polling area compliant for handicap access. Member Raymond Williams visited the school and found that no funds were needed.

He said there was a back entrance making the site handicap accessible and only the proper signage needed to be installed.

The board also discussed signage for St. Dunstan High School, which is replacing the polling stations at Elena Christian Junior High and JFK housing communities.

William also moved that the chair and the vice chair sign off on all invoices submitted by board members. He indicated this would prevent board members from getting paid when they only showed up for “five, 10 or 15 minutes for a meeting, leave and don’t come back.” His motion failed.

An angry citizen also pointed out a problem with board members being paid. Over half the board walked out when it was time to listen to residents present their concerns. She said, “They are paid to listen to our concerns.”

Belardo de O’Neal encouraged residents to take advantage of the early voting option. Early voting begins on Saturday at the Board of Election offices during regular business hours. She said, “This is a chance to avoid the lines.”

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