St. Thomas-St. John primary to be recounted
Published: October 2, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Almost 300 paper ballots cast in the Sept. 8 primary will be counted a second time, the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections decided Monday.
The decision came in the form of approval of a request made by Jean Forde, who is the eight-place finisher in the Democratic primary for the St. Thomas-St. John Senate district. Forde, who asked for the recount in a notarized letter to the board, trails seventh-place finisher Justin Harrigan Sr. by five votes, 1,480 to 1,475, according to election results the board announced Friday.
The meeting Monday was punctuated by flare-ups of a controversy that began at Friday's meeting.
Right after the meeting was called to order, board member Lawrence Boschulte said he would not remain at a meeting alongside Board member Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, who had previously pledged to recuse herself from board proceedings as she campaigns for the Senate At-large seat.
"With that said, I am gone for the day," Boschulte said and walked out.
Unlike last Friday, a quorum of four members - Marsh-Monsanto, Claudette Georges, Alecia Wells and Colette White-Amaro - remained in the meeting room Monday and unanimously approved Forde's recount request.
White-Amaro said the concerns raised in Forde's letter about human error potentially altering the outcome of the election were valid.
"I think it's a fair assessment," she said. "It could have been possible to have human error, and because the votes are so close to each other, I think a recount would be in order."
Georges said she agreed with Forde's letter in that "something was amiss" with some of the tallying of the paper ballots.
Forde's letter also questioned why ballots were counted in two different ways and in two different rooms.
Forde told the board that while he primarily is concerned about the Senate race in which he is a candidate, he feels the issues raised in his letter are a legitimate concern for all candidates who ran. He also said that the recount belies no ill-will toward Harrigan.
"I have nothing against candidate Harrigan," Forde said. "Our interest is in protecting the integrity of our system."
Forde and the board members recalled one recount in the territory, which Wells said took place more than 10 years ago, that swung election results by more than 20 votes.
"I think just the counts, the small difference, merits a recount just to be sure," Forde said.
Shortly after the four members voted in favor of recounting all of the St. Thomas-St. John paper ballots with respect to the Senate race, Board member Harry Daniel walked in and inquired about the outcome of the vote. When told that they had approved it, Daniel said, "Wow," stood up and left the meeting.
The abrupt departures of Daniel and Boschulte mimicked the meeting Friday, when both men left the meeting room, breaking the board's five-person quorum.
Though both members signed off on the election results Friday in the downstairs part of the Elections office, Marsh-Monsanto on Monday questioned the validity of their signatures given that the action was taken outside of a quorum of the board. Marsh-Monsanto said she spoke with the National Association of Parliamentarians and was advised that the only valid signature on the election certification may be that of Lorna Thomas, who came later in the meeting and re-established a four-member quorum.
As Marsh-Monsanto continued to explain her concerns, Wells called the meeting to a close, which later led to a voluble exchange of words between the two women as the meeting dissipated.
Wells said it remains unclear who will pay for the recount, as the V.I. Code does not address the issue.
V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. did not return a call for comment.
The board agreed to meet at 3:30 p.m. today to hammer out the details of when and how the recount will work.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.