Observers on St. Croix blocked by armed police from count

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ST. CROIX - Voters, candidates and members of the public who wanted to observe the election process and vote counting at the V.I. Elections System on Saturday were greeted by barricades surrounding the office, manned by police in tactical gear and intended to keep the public at bay.

A single TV monitor was set up under a tent outside the barricades.

It projected silent video that showed Election Board members accepting items from people - presumably poll judges - and eventually handing them off. At one point, the camera did pan around to show that an item was handed off to someone at a computer who did something with it, and handed something back. Some watchers said that only happened once.

Other times, they said, items were just handed-off out of the view of the camera. It was unclear what happened to the items after that.

Although Deputy Supervisor of Elections Genevieve Whitaker told reporters that a second television monitor would be set up to project totals from as the vote counting progressed Saturday evening, that did not happen.

Instead, that TV monitor remained unplugged and unused, sitting on the table.

Some members of the public who were trying to watch the proceedings complained about the single angle view, the inability of the public to see what was happening, and the lack of audio.

Some members of the media also tried to lodge complaints, but Deputy Supervisor of Elections Genevieve Whitaker referred them to Supervisor Caroline Fawkes, who was on St. Thomas, or to the board, which was nowhere to be seen except on the TV monitor.

Unable to get vote tallies, Sen. Kenneth Gittens, who is running for re-election, at one point asked a police officer manning the barricade how he could get inside or monitor the counting process.

The officer told him he didn't know. No effort was made to accommodate him.

At one point, Whitaker came out and provided hard copies of a partial count to reporters.

The only members of the press allowed inside the Elections Office was Public Television Station WTJX, which is partially supported by the government. Its employees are government employees. WTJX ran the video feed.

Several minutes after WTJX was allowed to break the news and announce who had won, Whitaker walked outside and handed reporters for independent media a hard copy of the unofficial vote tally for Saturday.

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