Op-Ed: Let Every Party Pay for its Own Primary

Even if Almighty God Himself came down and said, “Elections System of the Virgin Islands, y’all have time to appeal Judge Molloy’s Jan. 10, 2024 ruling on election unconstitutionality,” as a current Board Member, I know there was, is, nor will be no money to appeal it. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow 30 days for appeals as a civilian; 60 days for government officials. Understanding the background is equally as important. I am intricately aware of the Republican Party concerns long before this ruling, which took so long to come down. I was the sole Board member who voted against what it took to cause the lawsuit in the first place! The Party alleged that the System and Board of Elections was broadly overreaching into its internal affairs. I concurred then. Judge Molloy happens to agree now.
Harriet A. Mercer (Submitted photo)

I credit Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes for always immediately forwarding everything to whomever she deems should have them. As she said on record, she forwarded copies of the subject Jan. 10 ruling to the senators, Attorney General, etc. The courtesy was set. In my opinion, it was incumbent upon all recipients to decide how to move forward.

In April, Board Chairwoman Alecia Wells set courtesy again; but she shouldn’t have had to exponentially reach out to the same senators nor the AG office which since January had immediately been sent a copy. The same discussion being heard now should have been heard in January, before the six-month prohibition of changes to election laws.
Chairwoman Wells did the members of the 35th Legislature a huge favor by applying courtesy to remind it of its neglect of the impact of Judge Molloy’s judgment. Had it not been for her letter (since we still haven’t received a response from the AG’s office — a response sought via motion and vote), the Democrats would have been scratching the door at midnight come this August’s primary election. But, as a side note, once conducted within the bounds of all precedent local and federal laws, I question the right of any Legislature to tell any party exactly when it must hold its primary. Like, control y’all own purse strings, senators. Not the purse strings of the political parties.
In his live stream comments, Jelani Ritter wisely stated: “But that was the ruling months ago. That falls back on the [P]arty.” To that, I replied: Jelani Ritter you are correct. It is safe to assume that just like the plaintiffs (the Republican Party) knew of this ruling, all other parties knew too. Bottom line is the ruling was well-circulated. There was time for anyone who wanted to act, to act. We all heard Senator Alma Francis Heyliger say “she came up with FOUR amendments on January 11th,” the very next day after this epic ruling. So at least she acted somewhat. Why didn’t her colleagues? Whoever could have acted, should have.
Essentially, the Elections System and the Board was done with the matter at that point and until we’re legally mandated to act any further. As Supervisor Fawkes said on record: “They’re not many days left.” (Eighteen days to casting lots IF involvement permissed/82 days to lawful date of all primaries.)
The senators should not be blaming the Board of Elections nor Elections System, because it was immediately notified. All any of the 15 had to do was pass it on to their own legal counsel. Unlike us who up to now can’t hear from the AG and/or would’ve had to jump through hoops in any appeal process, it would’ve no doubt had this matter resolved by now.
This is not rocket science.
Let every party pay for its own primary — as long should have been the case — because the law never said that the people in general should be doing so. NOR SHOULD ANY LAW EVER SAY SO.
The manner in which the candidates for this November’s General Election ballot are determined can be as inexpensive or as costly as the parties want it to be. Just give the internally agreed to results to the ESVI and roll on.
In closing, I must differ with the Supervisor and anyone else in that if in fact we cannot proceed with the Primary Election, then we also cannot proceed with the casting of lots on May 31. That event would be an exercise in futility.
Essentially, at this writing, each political party is on its own until October/November re the General Election.
— Harriet Mercer (Republican) is a member of the Virgin Islands Board of Elections representing the St. Thomas-St. John district.