I recently attended the Republican National Convention in New York City and was impressed by the level of security, and, more importantly, the commitment to convey the importance of voting. As chairman of the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections, I feel an obligation to explain the recent board decision to reduce the number of polling sites and why we decided on one polling location for the 2004 Primary.
Prior to this decision, there were three voting sites on St. Thomas (Gomez, CAHS and Adelita Cancryn) and two sites on St. John (Julius Sprauve and Guy Benjamin). However, in April 2003, after the 2002 primary, four board members made the decision to decrease the number of polling sites due to continuing funding constraints.
I think it is important to make the voters on St. Thomas and St. John aware that the board's decision was not made to disenfranchise voters, but rather out of fiscal responsibility in this era of limited resources.
While our initial decision for the 2004 primary was to have one polling site on St. Thomas at CAHS and one site on St. John at Julius Sprauve, the board re-voted on Aug. 21, 2004, to have two polling sites on St. Thomas, Gomez and Adelita Cancryn.
Despite our decision to increase the number of sites on St. Thomas, I was amazed to learn that a particular politician, who supports the idea of having a federally appointed
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) put in place to manage the territory's finances, is one of the individuals opposing the reduction in polling sites. Her reasons for leading the charge for having this CFO were based upon fiscal savings, mismanagement and excessive spending. To request the board to increase the number of polling sites, however, would be contrary to responsible financial management.
While the request from this politician, in the form of a call from her office and a written letter, has been heard loud and clear, not once has she volunteered assistance from her party, or bi-partisanship collaboration among the Republican Party and Independent Citizens Movement (ICM), to assist the board.
Surprisingly, this elected official was not the only politician to forward the board a letter pertaining to concerns about the polling locations. Nevertheless, I still personally believe that one St. Thomas polling site, CAHS, would have been the most feasible and economical approach, and would have worked successfully.
To create an environment of fiscal responsibility requires each of us to look for, and put into place, policies and practices that save dollars whenever and wherever we can. Whether we are in the position to make these decisions, or are the ones who are affected by them, it will take all of us, not just some of us, to improve our financial conditions here in the territory.
In conversing with many of the convention participants, I learned all were responsible for financing his or her own way to the convention. Not one was complaining; all were happy to be there to support the party of which they were a part. Yet our three major local parties are not willing to finance their own primaries? It is my opinion that our local parties should be
just as excited about financing our primaries as the delegates were about attending the convention. The parties should be more than eager to ensure that all our voters encounter no difficulties or inconveniences when trying to cast their vote. As a community,
we must get to a point where we are focused on spending our limited fiscal resources more wisely.
Yes, primaries are critically important, but the time has long passed when our government should be expected to foot the bill for primaries. It is now time that each of the three parties to step up to the plate.
Chair, St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections
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