Elections board OKs nicknames on ballots, folders for ballot security

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ST. THOMAS - In an effort to standardize voting procedures across the territory, the V.I. Joint Board of Elections has reviewed practices that could make voting in this year's election more comprehensive and private.

The board met in special meeting at the St. Thomas Elections Office on Monday and voted to pass a number of motions that will alter existing policies territory-wide.

Among the items the board approved is:

- To allow candidates to use nicknames on the ballots, so long as the names do not exceed 22 characters. Six board members voted yes, three voted no, and one abstained.

- To allow voters to spoil three ballots, after which a poll judge would be required to assist the voter with the fourth ballot, which would be filled out using an "automark" machine.

- To provide security folders to voters for when they are carrying their ballots to the tabulators to be counted.

- When voters are present, they will be allowed to submit their ballots into the tabulator themselves. However, when they send their vote with another person who agrees to bring their ballot to be tabulated, the person will not be allowed to submit the ballot to the tabulator themselves.

- To give priority to the physically disabled and elderly regarding the use of the automark voting machines.

- To post some of the clerks at the polling sites, while others would stay at the Elections offices, allowing clerks to exchange information if necessary between locations.

The board still has a long list of other items that it needs to address, many of which pertain to a V.I. attorney general's report released to the board Monday during the special meeting.

The board did not review the report because the meeting was cut short when some of the members from St. Croix had return flights to catch. The board is expected to review the report, and to continue to review its policies and procedures during a continuation of Monday's meeting.

The purpose of reviewing its policies and procedures is to streamline the processes by which the boards and the Elections System conduct elections.

The inconsistencies during the 2012 General Election did not alter the results, but they did lead to thousands of missing votes, according to the report.

The report, which the Attorney General's Office finished in February, said that both districts handled numerous practices differently, including the counting, sorting and organizing of ballots.

The St. Thomas-St. John District in particular lacked structure, leading to the mass shortage of paper ballots and egregious discrepancies between numbers of votes, according to the report.

"Any policy that should be territory-wide, should be written and followed," said Caroline Fawkes, current V.I. Elections System supervisor.

John Abramson, Jr. was the elections supervisor at the time of the 2012 General Election.

"There were some things that should have been territory-wide," Fawkes said.

If the board can continue to standardize the policies and procedures, and follow them, the upcoming election will go much more smoothly, Fawkes said.

The board has not yet set a date for the continuation of Monday's special meeting.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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