The Board of Elections met this week to review the findings of a special committee appointed to address a written inquiry challenging the results of the 2022 General Election. By the end of the brief meeting, officials rejected a call for a new round of balloting with results replacing those of the 2022 General Election.
A brief meeting convened on Tuesday to hear a report from board members tasked with responding to a May 18 letter written by St. Croix resident Cleopatra Peter.
Peter asked board members if challenges raised by a number of candidates who did not win their races in 2022 received responses. She asked about the residency of the lawmaker currently serving as senator-at-large in the 35th Legislature, and Peter asked questions about a press report involving a video that appeared on social media shortly after the Nov. 8, 2022, General Election took place.
The May 18 letter also asked election officials to consider scrapping the results of the 2022 election and restaging the balloting, territory-wide.
St. Croix Board Member Michael Joseph read to members attending a Tuesday meeting by way of live stream video from a draft of the report the committee prepared. Later in the day a written response, signed by Board Chairwoman Alecia Wells, was prepared in response to Peter’s inquiry.
The May 18 letter asked about challenges to the election results in the governor’s race where incumbent candidate Albert Bryan Jr. won the majority of votes. It also questioned the results of the race for Senate seats in the St. Croix district posed by one unsuccessful candidate.
The letter included Peter’s question about the residency of Senator-At-Large incumbent candidate Angel Bolques Jr. It also asked for the name of the federal agent involved in a reported FBI inquiry into the 2022 election results.
Wells’ response, based on the committee report, answered each inquiry in turn. She said election officials had looked into the complaints filed by gubernatorial challengers Kurt Vialet, Ronald Pickard, and Stephen Frett; by senatorial contestant Patricia James, and by Senator-At-Large challenger Sherry-Ann Francis.
The chairwoman assured Peters the voting machines used for the Nov. 8 election were tested and certified. Wells added that virtually no voters approached the Election System of the Virgin Islands to report any irregularities on Election Day.
She added that no irregularities were found that would have justified delay of the certification of votes.
The Board of Elections response letter, dated June 14, also informed Peters that elections officials could not answer her question about the name of the FBI agent who made an inquiry into the election results, based on the images from a video posted to social media. They could also not answer Peter’s question about possible penalties for violating Title 52, United States Code, Section 30121.
“Unless authorized, ESVI cannot speak for the federal government,” Wells said.
The chairwoman also responded to the residency question involving Bolques, saying the election system certified three times, when he ran for public office in 2018, 2020, and 2022 “without challenge until, in the latter election cycle, voters chose him for the At-Large seat,” Wells said.
“Consequently, based on the answers provided herein, ESVI has no cause or basis to set aside, nor order a new, Election,” the June 14 letter said.
Earlier that day, at the end of the single-agenda-item meeting, eight of 14 elections board members approved a motion to adopt the report and its findings produced by the ad-hoc committee; Florine Audain-Hassell, Lydia Hendricks, Epiphane Joseph, Michael Joseph, Angeli Leerdam, Lilliana Bellardo de O’Neal; Atanya Springette, and Wells.
One member — Harriet Mercer — rejected the findings. Former elections board chairman Raymond Williams abstained. Mercer said she did not have enough time to thoroughly read through the report presented by Michael Joseph.
Board members Kareem Francis, Arturo Watlington Jr., Shakima Jones-Sprauve, and Lisa Harris-Moorhead did not attend Tuesday’s special meeting.