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(Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands, June 19, 2003) Bill No. 25-0050 sponsored by Senator Shawn-Michael Malone, to establish the Virgin Islands Election Fund to comply with Public Law No. 107-252 (the Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA), passed the full senate last night with thirteen (13) members voting in favor with two absent. The legislation will be forwarded to the governor for further consideration.
The purpose of the fund is to receive all and any funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress for the purpose of implementing HAVA 2002 requirements. Additionally, the Act requires that each state and territory provide 5% matching funds for federal dollars throughout each budget year. The passage of this legislation puts the territory in a position to gain access to four million dollars ($4,000,000), projected for the Virgin Islands.
"This could not have happened at a better time as we wrestle with our fiscal crisis," Senator Malone stated. As we begin to look at the fiscal year 2004 budget, this $4,000,000 eases the burden on the General Fund, the fund which $796,451 dollars comes out of to fund the Election System of the Virgin Islands and $100,000 used to fund both district boards of elections each fiscal year, which is a good start as we begin to look at the upcoming Fiscal Year 2004 budget and the austerity measures that must be implemented"" Senator Malone said.
"This is also another opportunity to help us fund some of the necessary reforms to our election system that otherwise could not be implemented due to the lack of finances," Senator Malone continued.
Although the Virgin Islands historically has not had any problems with the conducting of elections, the Territory has benefited immensely from the problems arising out of the most recent national presidential elections which were the basis for HAVA 2002. The Virgin Islands, once again, will be "ahead of the game" when it comes to the conduct and administration of local elections. "As a former election board member and chairman, I can say without reservation, that the Election System of the Virgin Islands is one of the best, fail-safe systems in the nation," Senator Malone said.
The funds from HAVA 2002 will be used to implement aspects of the proposed Virgin Islands HAVA 2002 State Plan, as required by the Act, which include, among other things:
– Improved Access for Disabled Voters at Polling Places
– A Pilot Program to Demonstrate and Introduce New Voting Machines
– The Computerization of each Poll throughout the territory
– The Conducting of a Voter Information, Education, and Outreach Program from grades K-12, and
– Funding for Administrative Costs
"I would like to take this time to commend Mr. John Abramsen, Supervisor of Elections, his staff, members of the Joint Boards of Elections and the local HAVA 2002 Committee for their hard work and persistence in realizing this excellent opportunity," malone exclaimed. "Also, my colleagues in the 25th Legislature are to be commended for supporting this very important piece of legislation which helps us financially and places us on the right track towards election reforms in the Territory. I respectfully ask that Governor Charles W. Turnbull sign this bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk," Senator Malone concluded.

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