St. Croix Elections Board recommends changes to early voting bill


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ST. CROIX - During its regular meeting Wednesday, the St. Croix District Board of Elections voted to forward recommendations to the Senate and governor that they say will safeguard the rights of residents and make the process of early voting more efficient for the board.

Board member Raymond Williams made a motion that was approved by the board to send recommendations to Gov. John deJongh Jr. on changes that should be included in the early voting bill, as requested by his office.

Williams said current language in proposed changes to legislation are contradictory, and the members present agreed that at the next joint board meeting they also will recommend that the joint board forward additional suggestions to the chief legal counsel of the V.I. Legislature to review.

The board agreed that they will discuss with the joint board the ability to recreate walk-in ballots in the event that a ballot is not readable by the machine. Williams said that would allow them to properly make selections when the intent of the voter is clear.

Chairman Adelbert Bryan said the board is in the process of preparing to go before the Legislature for its annual budget hearing Aug. 19.

St. Croix Deputy Elections Supervisor Genevieve Whitaker presented the supervisor's report on behalf of Caroline Fawkes, who did not attend the meeting.

Whitaker said that the Elections System is creating a number of public service announcements as they move toward the General Election to increase more understanding about the machines and how to vote.

She told the board members that strict deadlines are in place for ballot preparations for the General Election, and any changes must be as close to final as possible for the ballots to be approved at the Aug. 27 Joint Board of Elections meeting.

In the report, Fawkes also had outlined the Election Systems' intention to relocate to another space in the Sunny Isle Complex that could be outfitted to meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Fawkes also asked the board to consider what action could be taken to eliminate the $800 monthly storage bill they are paying for the old voting machines.

Members discussed a number of ideas, including the possibility of storing the machines in their conference room and holding their meeting elsewhere, but they decided more exploration of the matter is needed and made no decision.

Since Saturday's primary election, the board has completed its count of the walk-in ballots for the primary election and has to wait until Aug. 12 before they can begin counting absentee ballots that have been mailed in.

With the exception of Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal and Rupert Ross Jr., all board members were present at Wednesday's meeting.

The district board's next meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 3.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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