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Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Dec. 6, 2001 – A funny thing happened on the way to a vote Wednesday in the Senate Government Operations Committee.
Sens. Lorraine Berry and Celestino A. White Sr., neither of them a committee member, got together on a bill restricting what White calls the "ever-present circus" that surrounds the polls at election time. White authored the bill and Berry spoke in favor of it.
Berry frequently is fodder for White's orations in Senate proceedings, a situation Berry is known not to ignore. However, on Wednesday they took Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's (or Robert Frost's) "road less traveled," casting aside animosity in the interest of peace and sanity at the polls.
White's bill initially called for keeping election campaigning by candidates' supporters at least 1,000 feet away from the polls on primary or general election days. He amended it to eliminate the reference to geographical distance and mandate that all electioneering anywhere end at 2 a.m. on voting days. Berry told the committee members she supports the proposal.
Frolicking and pestering arriving voters by the entrance to voting places is a Virgin Islands tradition, a "circus" apparently enjoyed by all except some voters trying make their way through the gantlet of campaigners waving fliers and placards, playing music and in general behaving in such a way as to dissuade some would-be voters from supporting their candidates.
White said the purpose of his bill "is to prevent that atmosphere," and his colleagues heartily agreed to it.
So did John Abramson Jr., supervisor of elections, although he said he would recommend that electioneering end 48 to 72 hours before voting day. He also said election reform should not be undertaken piecemeal by the Senate but "should be a wholesome approach and should include all the stakeholders … the voting public, political parties and the Board of Elections." It's an opinion Abramson has offered before in response to proposals to reduce the size of the Senate and reorganize the body.
The committee chair, Sen. Emmett Hansen II, called the proposal "one of the wisest and most mature things we can do for the election process." The measure passed 3-1 with Sens. Roosevelt David, Carlton Dowe and Hansen voting in favor and Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg voting against. Sen. Adelbert Bryan was absent from the committee meeting; Sens. Donald "Ducks" Cole and Norma Pickard-Samuel were absent for the vote. After the bill was approved, the senators voted unanimously to move it straight to the Senate floor, circumventing the Rules Committee. However, it was later stated that this could not be done under the Senate's rules of procedure.
In other business, Berry also introduced an amendment in the nature of a substitute to a bill to amend the V.I. Code by adding a section of safe storage of firearms. Her revised version would hold gun owners responsible for the safe storage of their weapons and would impose criminal penalties for those who improperly and unsafely store weapons which might be taken by someone other than the owner and be used to injure or kill others.
Berry said the amendment will "help eliminate the neglect that leads to children playing with loaded firearms, thus reducing the potential for accidental death and injuries … which are caused by unsafe storage." The measure passed unanimously and will now go to the Rules Committee.

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