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Many Voters Switching to Democratic Party for Upcoming Primary

August 24, 2006 – More than 1,400 voters in the territory changed party affiliation in what Election officials said was a marked increase for a primary election.
Supervisor of Elections John Abramson said that as of Aug. 5, "in excess of 500 people" on St. Croix changed party affiliation in order to vote in the Sept. 9 primary and that there could have been more party switching during the five remaining days leading up to the Aug. 10 cutoff period.
"We have seen a considerable increase in the number of residents that have changed party affiliation," Abramson said during a press conference at the Elections Office at Sunny Isle in which he touted the office's readiness for the Saturday primary.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Abramson said that with a price tag of $200,000, "this will be one of our biggest primaries."
Abramson added that the 500-plus figure in the change-of-party affiliation is significant and said when asked that "most people were becoming Democrats."
"From our records, that indicates a marked increase," Abramson said.
The story was the same in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
Board of Elections member Lorna Thomas said that 907 people changed their party affiliation from June 1 to Aug. 10.
The vast majority of those were switching to the Democratic party, said Thomas.
When questioned by reporters at Thursday's press conference, Abramson could not immediately comment on whether this could be a factor in the election.
Election officials "will be analyzing what those individuals changed from and to" in order to possibly reason whether or not such changes may have factored into election results, Abramson said.
A total of 36,158 voters are qualified to vote in the Saturday primary, he said, and of that total, females account for 20,912 of the votes.
In the breakdown by political parties, Democrats outnumber Republicans and Independent Citizens Movement by far, with 31,615 qualified voters. The ICM tally is 1,740 votes and 2,803 for the Republicans.
Abramson said that as of Aug. 18, 2006, the Elections system had also tallied 15,782 other registered voters with no party affiliations.
"Democrats by far are our leading party affiliates, with ICM and Republicans bringing up the rear," Abramson said.
He said that as expected, female voters outrank male voters.
"That's been a trend," Abramson said. "Traditionally, female votes make up 51 percent of voters in the territory, which is unusual because we haven't had that many females being elected."
Abramson said that because the primary is being held on a Saturday, residents who worship on Saturdays can vote via walk-in absentee ballot from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8.
"At this point we're ready to go on with the primary election," he said.
In the past, Abramson said, employers have not given employees the two hours to vote as mandated by law, and Abramson hopes that isn't a problem this year.
The two hours, he said, does not include the employees' lunch hour and that employees need only make their employer aware of their intent to vote in order to get the time off.
In other discussions Abramson said:

–Individuals in line at 7 p.m., when the polls close, will be allowed to vote.
–Testing and demonstration of voting machines and certification by board members at Crystal Gade office on St. Thomas and Sunny Isle office on St. Croix will be held at 10 a.m. on August 30.
–The Elections Office has 201 voting machines, and 70 of those will be deployed to each district. Abramson said some will be held back in case of problems so that officials can do a quick switch.
–All 14 polling stations in each district, and one on St. John will be open.
–The elderly and those in wheelchairs will be allowed to vote without having to wait in line.
–Election results will be available via the Web site, www.vivote.gov. Abramson said that votes should be tallied within one to two hours, as in the past.
–In the 2002 primary there were 20,048 eligible voters on St. Croix and 2,664 voted; on St. Thomas there were 13,916 and 6,401 voted.
–In the 2004 primary there were 18,401 eligible voters on St. Croix and 9,137 voted; on St. Thomas there were 15,189 and 7,068 voted.
–In the 2004 general election there were 25,077 eligible voters on St. Croix and 16,088 voted; on St. Thomas there were 23,895 and 15,515 voted.
–A copy of the sample ballot is available on Web site.
–First-time voters will be required to produce some form of identification. A voter registration card, driver's license, social security card, credit card or another form of ID containing both picture and signature is acceptable.
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