U.S. Attorney asked to rule on election
Published: January 24, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The five candidates challenging the validity of the 2012 election are trying a new tactic this week: Asking the U.S. Attorney to get involved.
Senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras jointly drafted a letter Wednesday to U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alphonso Andrews Jr. that begins with a simple question: Were the 2012 elections conducted legally?
The five candidates have contended that elections officials broke a local law requiring that only voting machines certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission be used after 2011.
St. Thomas-St. John Board member Alecia Wells testified at a hearing in District Court earlier this month that the board knowingly violated the law in the 2012 primary and general elections. But Wells said the board approved the use of non-certified machines based in part on advice from V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer.
Frazer has said he saw the need to conduct the elections as an overriding concern given the territory's lack of certified voting machines.
"As a general rule the task of policing the integrity of the election process - including the prosecution of people who violate local or state election laws carrying criminal penalties - lies with local and state authorities, to which federal power normally should yield," the letter states.
However, federal jurisdiction should apply under certain circumstances involving voter fraud, the letter goes on to argue.
"As you are aware, a variety of correspondences have been forwarded to you providing timely notification of election issues that are sufficient to invoke federal involvement," the letter states. "The undersigned hereby submit the following to substantiate the basis for immediate investigation and appropriate federal prosecution into the conduct of the US Virgin Islands Election System to include its election officials and the Attorney Generals' Office for election tampering."
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.
The candidates' lawsuit remains pending in District Court. The original complaint asked the court to grant a temporary restraining order to halt the swearing-in of the territory's newly elected candidates, throw out the certified 2012 elections results and order a new election on a paper ballot. The complaint was based on allegations of widespread irregularities in the V.I. Election System in 2012 and earlier.
The restraining order request was denied twice, and all of the successful candidates have been sworn-in to office. But the five unsuccessful candidates have persisted in their request for a new election.
The government most recently moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs either lack the necessary legal standing to advance their lawsuit or fail to properly state a claim under local election laws or federal standards, including the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Help America Vote Act.
No ruling has been made on that motion.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.