Rain and wind won't stop today's V.I. primary

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ST. THOMAS - It may be wet and windy, but today's primary election is going ahead as planned.

The 2014 primary election season has been fraught with negative campaigning and tough political battles, but the election is just the first hurdle. The winners of the primary still have to run against opponents in the Nov. 4 General Election.

A handful of Democratic candidates are vying for an open gubernatorial seat and an open seat for delegate to Congress.

A primary election is required before a General Election when the number of candidates in one political party is more than the total number of seats available for a particular office. For example, each political party can field seven senatorial candidates in each district because that is the number of available seats.

Today, only the Democratic Party is holding a primary for Senate because the other political parties do not have more than seven nominations.

However, registered Republicans and registered ICM members will have political party races to vote in.

The paper ballots are color-coded by political party, with a colored bar across the top of the ballot. Democrats are blue, Republicans are red and ICM is yellow.

Today will be the first time the V.I. voting public will be using the new DS200 voting machines. The new system will allow people to vote on a paper ballot - by filling in ovals next to the candidate's name with a blue or black pen - which then is fed into the machine to be scanned and counted.

If the voter did not select the maximum possible candidates in a race, the machine will point it out and ask whether the voter wants to cast the ballot anyway.

If a voter over-votes - choosing more candidates than is allowed for a particular race - the machine will give the ballot back to the voter. The ballot will be considered "spoiled" and the voter will put it in a spoiled ballot bin. They then will be given another paper ballot and can try again.

Voters can spoil up to three ballots and then either use the AutoMark - which is for the visually impaired and uses headphones to walk a voter through each step of the ballot - or waive their right to privacy and have a poll worker help them vote.

Once the ballot is cast, it is dropped into a locked bin located underneath the feeder tray in the voting machine.

The vote is recorded on an encrypted jump drive, which also is locked within the machine until the polls close.

After a machine is done accepting votes for the day, the poll judge will close out the machine, and it will print out a paper tally recording all the votes.

If the power goes out at the poll, the voting machines have battery back-ups. In the worst-case scenario, that there is no power and the battery runs down, the machines have a small locking tray into which the paper ballots will be collected until the power returns, at which point, the poll judge will run the ballots through the scanning machine.

If a voter goes to the poll and the poll workers cannot find the voter's name in the registration book, they can vote using a provisional ballot. The provisional ballots require a voter to supply their name and identifying information so that their eligibility status can be checked after the election. If the voter is properly registered, the provisional ballot will be counted along with the absentee ballots after the election.

The boards of elections in each district will begin counting absentee ballots Sunday. They have to wait until Aug. 12 to collect all the mail-in absentee ballots and count them before certifying the election.

To help people get to the polls today, VITRAN will provide bus service on all three islands. The fixed route bus service will operate from 5:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The ADA Paratransit service will not be affected.

Many political candidates also are mobilizing to carry people to the polls if they need assistance.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and close a 7 p.m. today.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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