St. Thomas Elections Board hires sergeant-at-arms


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ST. THOMAS - To help keep order at St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections meetings, the board has hired a sergeant-at-arms, which it announced during its meeting Thursday.

Also during the board's regular meeting, members ripped apart the latest early voting legislation and discussed preparations for the Nov. 4 general election.

There was no mention of Deputy Supervisor Nefrediezha Barbel, who has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an action by the Joint Board of Elections, which meets next month.

After the Aug. 2 primary election, Barbel got into heated confrontations on a number of occasions with some of the board members, and in one instance, Barbel and board member Claudette Georges filed police reports against one another.

After Thursday's meeting, board chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. told The Daily News that she was placed on administrative leave by Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes.

When Watlington called Thursday's meeting to order, the first thing he did was introduce the new sergeant-at-arms, Glenwood Dickerson.

"It's become clear that we need to appoint a sergeant-at-arms," Watlington said.

He asked the board whether they approved of the move, stating that the V.I. Code gives the board the authority to hire "assistants," and he believes this would be a lawful action.

"We found that we have disruptive people in our audience," Watlington said.

Dickerson will be paid a per diem rate, and is considered a temporary employee. Watlington said he would take recommendations for another candidate or for anything else that the board may want addressed.

Board member Wilma Marsh Monsanto said while she agreed with having someone do the job, she thought the title of sergeant-at-arms is extreme. She recommended that he be referred to as security.

The board voted unanimously to accept Dickerson as the sergeant-at-arms.

Early voting

The Senate passed an amendment allowing for early voting in the territory for the upcoming November election, and Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed it into law earlier this month.

However, the board and Elections officials took issue with the new law.

"Some parts are workable, some parts are not," Fawkes said.

The board's attorney, Kimberly Salisbury, said the language of the bill essentially makes it null and void. She said the measure states that the Elections System must have the same number of early voting polling sites that it had in the 2012 election.

"That would be zero," she said.

Watlington pointed to flaws with challenging a voter at the time they cast their ballot and other procedures included in the new law.

"Why are we trying to make sense out of something that is unworkable?" Watlington said. "Why are we going to be supporting this kind of stupidness?"

He said he supports early voting, but it needs to be able to work.

Fawkes said the concept of early voting is a good one - it could eliminate crowds at the polls on Election Day - but in order to meet the mandates of the new law some amendments must be made. She said she would submit recommended changes to the legislation to the board next week, and they can forward it to the Senate.

Primary election

The board also decided to meet with the poll judges at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 to talk about how the primary went for them.

Fawkes reminded the board that an audit of the primary election must be conducted within 30 days following certification.

The board voted to do the audit on Sept. 12.

Watlington said the board will take 10 percent of total ballots cast and match the paper ballot to the paper tape from the machine to the jump drive from the scanning machine.

"We're just counting ballots, we're not counting votes," Watlington said.

The board also briefly discussed a number of other issues, such as the counting of absentee ballots by precinct and the number of ballots to have printed, but those issues will be revisited at the next Joint Board of Elections meeting.

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

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