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Flyer Raises Concerns About Possible Vote Tampering

Sept. 8, 2004 – Alecia Wells, chairwoman of the Joint Board of Elections for the Virgin Islands, said Thursday night that election officials were taking very seriously a flyer offering money to anyone who can prove that vote tallies can be manipulated.
The flyer was circulated by Hope Gibson of St. Croix and offers $10,000. Gibson ran for a V.I. senate seat in 2002 and lost.
Wells stated anyone tampering with election machines would face criminal charges. She said after the flyer was discovered the U.S. Justice Department and other enforcement agencies were contacted.
On Thursday, acting United States Attorney Anthony J. Jenkins announced Assistant United States Attorney Alphonso Andrews and Deputy Criminal Chief Curtis Gomez were appointed to serve as district election officers for the Virgin islands.
In a press release, Jenkins stated the appointments were made as part of an initiative to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the election process.
Several people – including Gonzalo Rivera, a local talk show radio host, and Independent Citizens Movement senatorial candidate Terrence Nelson – have questioned the reliability of the voting machines.
According to a report in the Avis, the pair met with election officials Wednesday to express their concerns. Rivera is concerned because, after a voter presses the button, there is no paper trail to verify that the vote was recorded. This is also one of Gibson's concerns.
She said in an interview last month: "As it stands, our voting machines do not provide for independent audits or recount capability in the event of a challenge to an election outcome. The voters should also demand guarantees simply because there is no vote verification capability of these machines that allows the voter see who they really voted for."
She had invited two experts on voting machines to discuss their concerns on a WYAC-FM talk show in August. Both challenged remarks made by John Abramson Jr., supervisor of elections, on a July 21 broadcast of the same show. (See "Let the Voter Beware, or Be Confident of the Count?" ).
Jenkins said, "Election fraud dilutes the worth of votes honestly cast. It also corrupts the essence of our representative form of government. As a crime against both the individual and the government, it will be dealt with promptly and aggressively."
His press release goes on to say, "As part of their responsibilities as district election officers attorneys Andrews and Gomez, along with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will be on duty in the district on election day to receive complaints of election fraud. The FBI also will have special agents available to receive allegations of election fraud."
Jenkins emphasized that the jurisdiction of his office is generally confined to enforcement in the election of federal officers.
The release concluded, "It is federal offense to electronically, or otherwise, alter votes counted in an election."
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