Maduro's resignation is latest issue to hit Elections
Published: March 15, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Adding turmoil to an already unstable situation within the V.I. Election System, St. Thomas-St. John Deputy Elections Supervisor Mabel Maduro resigned effective Thursday.
Maduro's resignation comes on the heels of the announcement earlier this year that longtime Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. would be taking sick leave until he retires at the end of May.
The newly installed Board of Elections members were just beginning to sort out how Maduro and her counterpart on St. Croix, James Weber III, would split up the administrative duties of the Election System in Abramson's absence.
Maduro's letter of resignation, dated Tuesday, does not include a reason for her decision. It states she intends to "pursue other interests" and extends thanks to board members.
"I enjoyed serving the people of the Virgin Islands," Maduro wrote. "If I can be of any help during this transition, please let me know."
Maduro did not attend Thursday's meeting of the St. Thomas-St. John Board, where members offered varied responses to the news.
Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. made a suggestive statement about the timing of Abramson's and Maduro's resignations amid an ongoing audit of the Elections System's use of federal funds by the Inspector General of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
"Since this audit began, first we had our supervisor resign and now the deputy supervisor," he said.
He said the Joint Board of Elections is responsible for determining who will take over Maduro's responsibilities or who will replace her.
The Joint Board is scheduled to meet today on St. Croix.
Board member Lawrence Boschulte said he did not think Maduro's absence would make much of a difference in the board's ability to get information about the nuts and bolts of the Elections System. He said having Maduro and Abramson out of the picture may, in a sense, eliminate two middlemen between the board and the facts about the Elections System.
Board member Wilma Marsh-Monsanto said she believes Maduro was "run out of" her job.
Sharon Benjamin is the next highest in command beneath Maduro and oversaw a majority of the Election System's operations during the 2012 election cycle, during which Maduro was absent after a falling out with Abramson.
Abramson requested Maduro's dismissal in September, citing several examples of why she was a "serious liability" as the primary and General elections approached. Maduro was suspended from work, but after a series of district and Joint Board decisions, Abramson was ordered to apologize to Maduro, and she returned to work in December.
Marsh-Monsanto said Maduro also was facing heat for having sent a demo model of the Election System's new voting machines to St. Croix last month against a directive from the manufacturer.
In its only concrete action on Thursday, the St. Thomas-St. John Board voted to approve five suggested changes to Title 18 of the V.I. Code to bring the law into compliance with the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which, among other things, requires states to send absentee ballots to overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.
The territory's current statutory deadlines for candidates to file to run for office make this impossible, at least for primary elections, according to Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Salisbury, the board's attorney.
In essence, the changes would move up all future election cycles to begin earlier in each election year. For instance, if eventually passed by the V.I. Legislature and signed by the governor, the proposals approved Thursday would set the filing deadline for candidates on the second Tuesday in April of an election year, with the casting of lots to follow on the fourth Tuesday in April.
A federal judge last September approved a consent decree between the Election System and the U.S. Justice Department under which elections officials must take steps to ensure continued compliance with federal elections laws by December 2013.
Board members on Thursday remained in the dark regarding why the government has failed to pay the first $230,000 it owes on a contract to obtain new electronic voting machines for the territory.
Documents show the government has encumbered more than $500,000 to fulfill the contract, but board members in the St. Thomas-St. John District have been unable to ascertain the source of the funds or the reasons why the government has missed the first two payment deadlines agreed upon in the contract.
Some officials, including Weber and Salisbury, have suggested the funds for the machines come from the Help America Vote Act, which would prevent them from legally being spent until the Elections System - including its new office on St. Thomas - is certified as being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Others have not accepted this as a complete explanation.
"I have been unable to understand what's going on here," Watlington told the board.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.