5 losing candidates ask judge to stop swearing-in

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ST. THOMAS - Five unsuccessful candidates from the 2012 election are asking a federal judge to halt the swearing-in of the territory's newest elected officials, claiming irregularities in the election cycle prevented a fair vote.

In an amended complaint filed Dec. 21, Senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the January swearing-in ceremony.

Each party is acting "pro se" and representing himself or herself.

Listed as defendants are the Joint Board of Elections; the St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John District Boards of Elections, along with their respective chairpersons, Rupert Ross Jr. and Alecia Wells; and V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr.

"Defendants have routinely faced, and ignored, admonishment by the Court pertaining to their disregard for statutory mandate," the complaint reads.

In a number of respects, the amended complaint mirrors a similar one filed Dec. 11 in District Court, including allegations that the Elections System violated the federal Help America Vote Act and other federal and local laws, in part by allowing the use of voting machines that are not compliant with federal standards.

The new complaint adds the restraining order request and additional allegations about the conduct and oversight of the Elections System. The plaintiffs' new claims include:

- The defendants have exhibited a "deliberate and chronic failure to enforce" the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act as amended by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

- Abramson "has consistently demonstrated a pattern of willful misconduct that deliberately exposes, or can expose, the integrity and security of the Election System, its processes, vote outcomes and voter protections to compromise."

- "Defendants have consistently misrepresented and mislead the true status of electronic voting machine certification."

- The Boards of Elections have "blatantly dismissed and marginalized" a number of written requests for audits and other complaints about the conduct of the elections dating back to 2009.

"Plaintiffs believe defendants have infringed on voters' fundamental right to vote, fair and transparent elections and to equal protection," the complaint reads. "It is anticipated that voters or other candidates will be similarly aggrieved by defendants' actions in the future absent injunctive relief."

The complaint asks the court to intervene by Jan. 8, which, according to the complaint, is the scheduled date for the swearing-in of successful candidates from the 2012 general election.

As with the original complaint, the amended filing asks the court to declare the General Election "null and void," to de-certify the election results and to order a new election on a one-page paper ballot "to be counted at the polls on election-night, in public view, until all ballots are counted."

None of the defendants had answered either complaint as of Monday, according to online court records. Wells has said the V.I. Attorney General's Office, which also is investigating the Elections System based on numerous complaints filed during the 2012 election cycle, is working on a response.

As of Monday, summonses had been issued to 12 Elections Board members, Abramson, Attorney General Vincent Frazer and Gov. John deJongh Jr., according to online court records.

- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email lmattei@dailynews.vi.

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