Elections supervisor declares Sen. Hansen eligible to run for office
Published: September 5, 2012
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ST. CROIX - Almost two weeks after attorneys filed final briefs and case law supporting their positions about Sen. Alicia Hansen's eligibility to run for re-election, the V.I. Election's System has determined that Hansen is legitimately on the ballot for the November election.
Supervisor of Elections John Abramson Jr. issued an official order saying that he has considered all of the promises and that Hansen has been validly nominated.
Colleen Clarke, president of the V.I. Action Group, wrote the letter to Joint Board of Elections Chairman Rupert Ross Jr. requesting an expedited hearing and investigation to determine Hansen's eligibility as a candidate.
Hansen was on probation until May 2012, following a 2008 conviction on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file tax returns.
The V.I. Action Group claims that the law prohibits Hansen from voting until one year after her case is discharged and that her ineligibility to vote makes her ineligible to run for office.
However, the Legislature amended the V.I. Code last year to restore a convicted person's right to vote immediately upon the discharge of the case.
An administrative hearing on the Hansen matter was conducted Aug. 17 and 18. Hearing Officer Zandra Petersen, who is the executive director of the V.I. Public Employee Relations Board, presided over the hearings that attracted about 50 residents, who listened intensely as testimony and arguments were made.
Motions from both sides focused on the issue of moral turpitude.
Hansen's attorney, Amelia Joseph, contended that Hansen's conviction does not rise to the level of being a crime of moral turpitude.
Joseph also cited the Board of Elections' determination last year that Hansen was eligible to vote and therefore was eligible to run for office.
In his motion for Clarke, Yohana Manning argued that willful failure to file tax returns does meet the definition of a crime of moral turpitude.
In his order, Abramson said his decision is based on a number of findings of facts and law. Moral turpitude is not defined in the Organic Act of 1954 as amended and is not defined in the Virgin Islands Code, he said.
No court in the territory has notified his office of any conviction resulting in the loss of voting privileges as it relates to Hansen's case, Abramson said.
"Pursuant to Title 18 section 263 as amended the Respondent is not barred from voting," Abramson said in the order. Last year, the Board of Elections voted to affirm that Hansen was eligible to register and hold office, he said.
Hansen presented a valid nomination paper as an independent candidate for the Nov. 6 General Election and is a valid nominee, according to Abramson.
"They made the right decision under the law," Joseph said. "And the 3rd Circuit Court supports that decision."
Tuesday afternoon, Manning said he and his clients were baffled at the order.
"We find it a little strange that he did not seek any legal advice as to determining if it was a crime involving moral turpitude," he said.
Manning said the usual course in administrative hearings would be to send briefs to the attorney general for a legal opinion and not make a determination because the term was not defined.
"A federal lawsuit is certainly imminent," he said. "We cited 17 cases that supported our case, and there was no legal interpretation made by the Elections Office. He did not do his job."
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.