Elections officials won't say whether final primary results will be released Sunday, despite deadline

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ST. THOMAS - Official results from the primary election likely will not be released before Sunday, according to Elections officials.

At this point, officials cannot even confirm definitively that the results will be released Sunday, which is the deadline according to the V.I. Code for both district boards to certify their results.

While the majority of ballots have been counted, both the St. Thomas-St. John District and the St. Croix District have about 300 estimated write-in ballots to go through, according to St. Croix District Deputy Supervisor Genevieve Whitaker.

Each write-in ballot must be submitted for imaging, which results in a report that reads the written name of the candidate and reproduces a copy of the written name to be kept for records, Elections officials said.

Both districts just began the process of counting the write-ins, and it is unclear how long it will take to get all of them counted.

If all of the ballots, including the write-ins, are counted by Sunday, at least one of the districts still may not be prepared to certify the election.

At least two of the board members in the St. Thomas-St. John District currently are off-island, according to St. Thomas-St. John District board member Claudette Georges, who noted that both boards need to have a quorum before they can certify their elections.

Once certified, or pronounced official, the final results of the primary election are released.

The board chairman or vice chairman is expected to contact the board members for the certification, Georges said.

"When we're called in, I guess we'll come in," she said.

Georges said the board also was delayed in its counting of the write-ins this week because the district office, located in Lockhart Gardens on St. Thomas, closed early on Thursday because of an internal conflict between board members and the district deputy supervisor, Nefrediezha Barbel.

Barbel currently is on leave by choice, according to an email that she wrote Thursday to V.I. Elections System Supervisor Caroline Fawkes.

Barbel did not say when she will be returning to work.

Barbel, who filed a police report Wednesday evening against Georges, insists that the board is trying to illegally force her from her position.

However, Georges also filed a police report, stating that Barbel became hysterical at the office Wednesday evening.

Barbel and Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. also are not talking, after she said that he grabbed ballots out of her hand.

Watlington said she was being incompetent.

The V.I. Joint Board of Elections, which hired Barbel, is expected to discuss Barbel's position at its meeting later this month.

Aside from the primary election certification, also planned in the next week is the casting of lots for positions on the General Election ballot.

The St. Croix District Board of Elections has no qualms with holding the casting of lots Tuesday, though the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections wanted to delay it pending a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the eligibility to run of gubernatorial candidate Soraya Diase-Coffelt and running mate John Canegata.

Fawkes in May ruled that Diase-Coffelt and Canegata could not be on the ballot because Diase-Coffelt is registered as no-party and Canegata is a Republican.

Fawkes said that, for now, while the Elections System is planning to conduct the casting of ballots Tuesday, they are waiting on an opinion from the V.I. Attorney General's Office regarding the case.

The supervisor also pointed out that Diase-Coffelt and Canegata still have not submitted their campaign disclosure report, which was due July 15. A daily penalty of $10 is applied thereafter, including for days that fall on weekends and holidays.

The official results of the primary elections will confirm the other candidates who will be in the race for the General Election on Nov. 4.

The finalized count could make or break the chances for a number of Senate candidates.

On St. Thomas, Sean Georges and Sen. Clarence Payne III are on the cusp of the seventh slot, with Marvin Blyden beating them by less than 100 votes at 1,622.

Sean Georges, who was ousted from the General Election after receiving 1,575 votes, technically still is in the race.

Payne, who received 1,529 votes in the primary, also is still within range to keep his Senate seat.

On St. Croix, incumbent Sen. Diane Capehart came out ahead of Paul Arnold Jr. by just 30 votes, the difference between 1,333 and 1,303. If the two trade places, Capehart would be bumped out of the race and lose her seat.

It is unlikely that any of the other races could see any significant changes in their results.

The Donna Christensen-Basil Ottley Jr. ticket prevailed by more than 900 votes over the closest challenger in the gubernatorial race, and Stacey Plaskett beat Shawn-Michael Malone by more than 700 votes in the race for the delegate to Congress seat.

The St. Croix District already has counted 388 walk-in ballots. Of the 129 mail-in ballots that were sent out from the district, 120 have been returned and counted.

Tuesday was the deadline to receive mail-ins, which had to be postmarked by Aug. 2.

The St. Croix office still has not revealed the number of provisional ballots.

In the St. Thomas-St. John District, the Elections office reported 797 walk-in ballots and 57 provisional ballots, of which six were disqualified and one had no votes. As a result, 50 provisional ballots were counted.

Of the 174 mail-in ballots that the district sent out, 152 were returned, though two were disqualified from the count.

However, until the election is certified, the results of the counts will not be released.

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

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