Elections Offices Being Retrofitted, Soon to Open

Raymond Williams conducts Tuesday’s BOard of Elections meeting. (Screenshot of meeting)
Raymond Williams conducts Tuesday’s BOard of Elections meeting. (Screenshot of meeting)

Caroline Fawkes, Supervisor of Elections, reported at the Board of Election’s meeting Tuesday that the St. Croix Elections Offices could be opened as soon as next week if retrofits of the office are completed.

A vendor – Eddie’s Glass – has been chosen to do the work to ensure safety and security of the employees and the public during the pandemic. The cost of the work was quoted at $6,700. A vendor to retrofit the St. Thomas office has not yet been chosen.

The news of the office’s re-opening was of concern to board members who had a lengthy discussion on how to hold voter registration outreaches with the offices closed.

“It is our duty to give residents every opportunity to register,” Chairman Raymond William said.

Board members debated whether more than a couple of days notice was needed before the board would participate in a voter registration drive. In the end a motion requiring a five-day notice was needed before the board would participate.

The board also approved the ballots for the Aug. 1 primary. When the Source requested a copy of the sample ballot, Fawkes replied by email, “We don’t provide the draft ballot to the public nor the media. We will make it official and prepare a sample. You will obtain a sample ballot in a few days.”

Early voting is also a concern to the board and Fawkes. The supervisor offered two recommendations to extend early voting.
– 1: Open voting on July 6 and with polling places open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, including weekends, and run through July 26.
– 2: Or, include the same hours but not start until July 13.

The early voting is to take place on St. Croix and St. John in their respective election offices. On St. Thomas it will take place in the Charlotte Amalie High School gymnasium. Fawkes said she did have concerns about voting in the enclosed conference room at the St. Croix office. However, she said, staff recommended its use because “it’s a control environment, with personal, protective equipment and we can ensure the constant sanitization. The office will be retrofitted with Plexiglas.”

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 1.

Board member Barbara Jackson-McIntosh expressed the concern most of the board members appeared to share, the impact of the pandemic and the upcoming primary.

“I am not confident we are out of the woods yet,” she said.

The board also discussed the Democratic Party borrowing equipment for its caucus. Williams said discussion about what to do concerning the Republican Party would be put off until a special meeting Friday. Fawkes said legal questions had taken up two long days of court hearings. William said that Judge Kathleen Mackay had Tuesday morning lifted a temporary restraining order against the Republican Party and a certification of the Republican Party’s plan could move forward.

A complaint filed by Gordon P. Ackley, a plaintiff in the above-mentioned suit, was mentioned by Williams but he did not go into detail about it. Ackley says he is chairman of the Republican Party of the United States.

His complaint is, “against adoption of any purported plan or rules submitted by John Canegata, putative chairman of the Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands.” It demands an administrative hearing before the Board of Elections.