Candidate files suit over electronic voting
Published: September 6, 2010
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The issue of paper ballots versus electronic voting machines, which has been the fodder of radio talk shows for months, has been brought into the courtroom.
Adelbert Bryan has filed two lawsuits against the government — one in U.S. District Court and one in the V.I. Superior Court — stating that his right to vote with a paper ballot has been violated.
Bryan currently is a Democratic candidate for the St. Croix Board of Elections.
The civil complaints filed in each court are virtually identical. The federal court already has heard the matter and dismissed the case, while the local court has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Julio Brady.
In his complaint before the Superior Court, Bryan asked for a temporary restraining order, injunctive relief and a preliminary injunction to prevent Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr., the Joint Board of Elections and Gov. John deJongh Jr. from continuing the use of electronic voting machines. Bryan called the machines “obsolete,” “malfunctioning” and “corruptible.”
He also took issue with the Joint Board of Elections’ practice of cancelling voter registrations — stating that Elections does not provide adequate notice before pulling the voters from the rolls.
Bryan said in the complaint that several requests to St. Croix Elections Board Chairman Raymond Williams for voter registration drives were denied, yet the board held a voter registration event on HOVENSA property, “to register new voters mostly who and could have been recently white employees who are new persons brought in for employment at HOVENSA.”
In his complaint, Bryan said the Joint Board met July 30 and decided that voters in the upcoming primary and general elections who have reasons for not using the electronic voting machines will have to use the provisional ballots. A news release was sent out Aug. 4 stating the board’s position. Bryan claims the board’s actions violate federal and local law.
“The defendants arbitrarily, capriciously and discriminatorily agreed to influence, persuade, intimidate or coerce plaintiff and others to use a provisional ballot rather than the electronic voting machines, as adopted as one of the choice to register a voter’s choice, will or preference to manifest his/her vote pursuant to 18 V.I.C.,” he said.
Bryan also contends that voters have the legal choice of using paper ballots or electronic voting machines and cites the sections of the V.I. Code that refer to ballots and ballot boxes.
While Bryan’s complaint will be heard in Superior Court on Tuesday, an almost identical complaint already was heard in District Court. Judge Harvey Bartle III dismissed the case Aug. 31.
Bartle wrote in his opinion that there is no federal question in Bryan’s complaint, so it was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. He also responded to a number of Bryan’s arguments.
The court found that electronic voting machines are mandated in the V.I. Code, and any mention in the law of ballots and ballot boxes simply is leftover language from older legislation.
“At the hearing, plaintiff made allegations concerning failures of voting devices in other jurisdictions, allegations which are not relevant to this matter,” Bartle said.
He said Bryan’s allegations that Virgin Islands voting machines also had failed in the past were unsupported by facts.
Bryan objected to the Joint Board of Elections’ news release that states, “the provisional ballot process will be used for electors who have reasons for not utilizing the electronic voting machines.” Bartle said he understood the release to simply affirm that provisional ballots are available as required by law.
“It does not have any effect on a person such as plaintiff, who is recognized by election officials as eligible to vote at the upcoming elections,” Bartle said in his opinion.
Bartle called Bryan’s claims about violations of the Help America Vote Act “insubstantial and frivolous” and “completely devoid of merit.”
Bryan’s charge that Elections improperly cancelled more than 6,000 voter registrations is not a valid complaint, the court said. Bartle said because Bryan’s registration was not cancelled, he does not have standing to bring the claim.
— Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-8772 ext. 311 or firstname.lastname@example.org