AG Says No to Registering Voters Before Runoff

Attorney General Claude Walker in an April photo, testifying at a V.I. Senate hearing.. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, provided by the V.I. Legislature)
Attorney General Claude Walker (File photo)

If you were not registered for the general election you should not be allowed to vote in the runoff election for governor that will be held Nov. 20, according to V.I Attorney General Claude Walker.

The Board of Elections on Nov. 9 discussed the runoff election and whether the board would allow the registration of new voters between then and the runoff, and whether newly-registered voters could vote in the upcoming runoff. The meeting ended with no resolution.

Numerous members of the board, reportedly, asked the Department of Justice for guidance.

According to a letter from Walker dated Nov. 10, “The scheduled runoff election is a continuation of the general election” and the board must not register new voters until five days after the runoff election. The letter was addressed to Caroline Fawkes, supervisor, Elections System of the Virgin Islands and to the Election Board.

Albert Bryan led incumbent Ken Mapp in the general election results but he fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

The issue is not new. Board members in a mid-October meeting, which did not have a quorum, asked whether the board should ask Fawkes to seek a legal opinion on the matter. That opened another issue – whether the current attorney general could settle the matter “independently,” since his boss is running for re-election.

Asked what happened in the last gubernatorial election when there was a runoff, board chairman Arturo Watlington, Jr. responded, “controversy.” Some residents were allowed to register, and some were not, he added.

“It’s an issue,” Watlington said. “Election doesn’t mean runoff.”

St. Croix member Lisa Harris Moorhead argued that it wouldn’t be fair to consider the runoff as a separate election, but rather, the board should view it as an extension of the general.

“Otherwise, I as a candidate can now find 200 people that didn’t take part in the general who could now vote my way,” she said.

Walker referred to definitions in the V. I. Code and wrote, “based upon the plain language of the two definitions, it is apparent that the term runoff election is included in the definition of general election. Because a ‘runoff election’ is an election, and it only applies in situations involving a general election, it must follow that a ‘runoff election’ is intended to be a continuation of the general election.”