Legislature moves 2014 election dates forward
Published: October 24, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to move election dates forward to comply with federal mandates and to conform to a consent decree.
Because the 29th Legislature had already passed legislation moving the primary election date for 2014 to the first Saturday in August, the Board of Elections has been calling on the 30th Legislature to adopt recommended dates for other election deadlines, such as for candidate filings, withdrawal of candidates and the casting of lots, according to St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr.
Watlington provided Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone with a letter outlining the board's recommended dates. Watlington arrived Wednesday to testify on the election reform bill sponsored by Sen. Clifford Graham and said he was concerned that the exact dates he had outlined had not been mirrored in the bill.
"The bill is totally flawed," Watlington said. "This is craziness."
Specifically, Watlington said, the date for common filing did not give the Board of Elections a 45-day window for the transmission of military and overseas voters' ballots, as is mandated by the consent decree and by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
However, Graham said, after inclusion of an amendment adjusting the deadline for the withdrawal of candidates to be the "fourth Wednesday in May " the bill does ratify all the dates the Board of Elections had recommended.
All 15 senators voted to pass the measure.
The new filing time for nomination will be moved from the last Tuesday in June to the second Tuesday in May by 6 p.m., according to the bill.
Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes testified in support of the bill but recommended that the Legislature take up 43 other urgently needed election reform measures in a separate hearing. She stressed that the matters must be ratified in a timely manner to be implemented by the Board of Elections in time for the next election.
"With the introduction of a new voting mechanism, DS 200, new management team, looming deadlines, education of the public, revision of Title 18, correcting Federal Audit deficiencies, awaiting a local audit report, passage of meaningful measures that really impact change is needed," Fawkes said.
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