Despite delays Wednesday morning in getting a machine to St. John, more than 300 registered voters came out for early voting in both districts, and Elections officials said the process went off without a hitch.
It appeared Tuesday evening that early voting wouldn’t kick off at 9 a.m. Wednesday as planned after it was discovered voting machines were displaying an irregularity when reading ballots. Specifically, according to Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes, the machines’ software wasn’t telling voters that they had under-voted, meaning that they had selected less than the minimum number of candidates listed for a given race.
According to Fawkes, this irregularity was limited to the main Legislative race, where voters can select up to seven candidates per district. If a voter opted to choose less than seven, the machine is expected to inform the voter that they could select more, then ask if they wish to proceed with their vote, but Fawkes said when the machines were tested Tuesday, that wasn’t happening.
“With a paper ballot, the voter is making a conscious decision not to vote for the total in each district, but with the voting machines, they are supposed to be asked if they wish to proceed and vote or make any changes if there is under-voting,” she explained.
While technicians from Elections Systems & Software, the company that programs and services the territory’s voting machines, were able to fix the bug by 9 p.m. Tuesday, Fawkes said that the machines still had to be verified and one sent to St. John.
“We need to remember that ES&S services 21 states and these states don’t have this requirement, so oversights will happen,” Fawkes said Wednesday evening in an email to the Source. “This is why we test the ballots when they arrive in the territory. The correction was made by 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, with ES&S resending a secure file with the data and jump drives that were then re-burned onto a specific computer. The delay was simply because we had to send a verified voting machine to St. John by ferry … so, St. Thomas began early voting at 10:30 a.m. instead, and St. John by 11:30 a.m.”
Early voting on St. Croix began on time at 9 a.m., she added.
A press release sent by the Elections System Wednesday night said 200 early voters came out on St. Thomas, another 131 on St. Croix and six on St. John.
Fawkes said that she expects the numbers to jump as early voting continues through July 25.
Early voting hours are from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the St. Croix Elections Office in Sunny Isles Annex, the St. Thomas Elections Office in Lockhart Gardens and the St. John Elections office in Market Square.