7 candidates file primary complaints
Published: September 20, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Seven candidates for public office in the Virgin Islands sent a letter Tuesday to the V.I. Elections Board and Elections supervisor demanding a response to a laundry list of concerns from the operation of the Sept. 8 primaries.
Diane Magras, Harriet Mercer, Jerry Meyers, Clarence Payne, Josephine Lindquist, Norma Pickard-Samuel and Marvin Blyden signed the letter, which blasts the territory's elections system.
"Coupled with the spirit of the law and all the fiasco we saw, heard, and know of which occurred at the polls during our September 8th Primary Election, these measures are extremely time-sensitive, and they are absolutely necessary to ensure the transparency of our System, as well as the rate of fairness of our candidacy and bid in this Election," the letter reads.
The letter outlines six territory-wide concerns attested to by the signators:
The letter mentions a consent decree entered into earlier this month by the Board and the U.S. Justice Department. The consent decree was filed concurrent with a lawsuit claiming the V.I. Elections System violated the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act as amended by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. This federal law requires states to send out absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election. The letter requests a list of all overseas absentee voters affected by the consent decree.
The letter requests absentee ballots be sent to those being held in prison who have not yet been convicted or sentenced.
The letter complains that paper ballots during the primary, while first placed in sealed envelopes, were then deposited in translucent ballot boxes. It also claims some paper-ballot voters were sent to poorly lit areas to vote and were denied an additional ballot when they accidentally spoiled a ballot.
"That is nothing more than voter intimidation and suppression," the letter states.
The letter expresses concern that the Board has yet to provide results from the primary broken down at the poll, precinct and district levels.
The territory's electronic voting machines do not meet federal standards, and the Elections System has yet to purchase new machines with money provided for the purpose by the federal government, the letter alleges.
The letter criticizes the Elections System for allowing its website to temporarily go offline in the run up to the primary and failing to conduct thorough background checks on candidates.
The letter, which requests a response by Tuesday, was addressed to Joint Board of Elections Chairman Rupert Ross Jr., Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. and St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections Chairwoman Alecia Wells.
It was also carbon copied to the U.S. Justice Department and the V.I. Civil Rights Commission.
Ross acknowledged receiving the letter and said he was reviewing the allegations.
"The issue first needs to be addressed by the St. Thomas-St. John Board," he said.
Reached Wednesday afternoon, Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. said he was too busy to comment.
Magras and Mercer appeared at the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections meeting Tuesday night to ask that the letter be read into the record.
The Elections Board declined to do this but promised to address the contents of the letter at its meeting scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday.
"We just want the rights of the people protected," Mercer said.
- Contact Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.