Published: January 21, 2013
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. THOMAS - More than two months have passed since V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer launched a probe of the 2012 election cycle, but the investigating panel so far has produced no results.
Frazer said Friday that the panel "got slowed up" by a lawsuit in District Court that asked a judge to halt the swearing-in of newly elected candidates and to de-certify the election results.
"They were never taken off their other work," Frazer said. "This was additional work that was put on them. When that litigation took place, it interrupted the interviewing of the persons who were in the elections process and the review of documents and whatnot, so it slowed them down."
Frazer appointed Deputy Attorney General Bruce Marshack, Solicitor General Bernard Van Sluytman, Chief Deputy Attorney General Wayne Anderson, Chief of the Civil Division Carol Thomas Jacobs and Director of the Justice Department's Special Investigations Division James McCall to the investigating panel.
None of those individuals so far have been directly involved in the Justice Department's defense of elections officials in the District Court lawsuit. That task fell to Assistant Attorneys General Ariel Smith-Francois and Tamika Archer, according to court records.
Still, Frazer said the lawsuit "interrupted" the investigation, though he acknowledged that, legally, the case would not inhibit the panel members from doing whatever they might need to do for the investigation.
Frazer said the main purpose of the investigation is to examine all of the conduct surrounding the 2012 election cycle and create a report to the boards of elections detailing "this is what happened in the election. There are things that need to be fixed, and you need to fix it before the next election."
Frazer added that he could not discount the possibility of criminal charges being filed from the investigation.
"I couldn't tell you there is none," Frazer said.
He said the panel found "some things that preliminarily raised some concern," but so far is it unclear whether those items rose to the level of criminal culpability.
So far in the lawsuit, at least one clear violation of the law has emerged. St. Thomas-St. John Board Secretary Alecia Wells testified that the board approved the use of electronic voting machines that were not certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission knowing that it contradicted a local law requiring this certification. Wells said the board made the authorization based on advice from Frazer.
Frazer said the local law in question put the territory in a bind for the 2012 election cycle. He said while the law would make it illegal to use the 26-year-old electronic voting machines that eventually were used in the election, other laws and the Revised Organic Act require the territory to hold elections every two years.
"That presents a conflict," he said. "So the overriding task is to conduct the election."
Regarding whether requiring the 2012 elections to be conducted on paper ballots, as some advocated, would have been a legally viable option - regardless of the pragmatic challenges such a scenario would have posed - Frazer said that is a question he anticipates the panel will address in its report.
"For me, we got to have an election," he said. "What are we going to do?"
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.