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Sunday, February 5, 2023
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Organic Act Should Change to Prevent Unnecessary Runoffs

Dear Source,
I am very surprised that I have not heard nor seen any statement suggesting that there be an amendment to the Organic Act of the U.S. Virgin Islands to correct what I and others consider an onerous statute. If there is any strong argument for an amendment of that provision in the Organic Act requiring a fifty percent-plus-one for a candidate for governor to be declared a winner, it is the present gubernatorial race. Presently there is a front runner who has garnered more than 45 percent of the votes cast, a clear indication of the choice of the majority of the electors voting. There should not be any doubt with that margin of votes over the runner-up.
The front runner in the Nov. 7 elections got close to 50 percent of the votes cast, and the runner-up had less than 40 percent; there is a more than 15 percent difference between the two contenders. I believe that threshold, the 50 percent-plus-one, is too high and serves no good purpose. It would be more reasonable to have the standard change to 39 or 45 percent of the votes cast and a 15 percent lead over the runner-up to declare a winner. The present situation as reported in the press — that the front-runner, the deJongh-Francis team failed to meet that standard by two votes — is a very perplexing situation, to say the least. As a people who believe in fair play, as a community with serious financial difficulties — to spend more than $200,000 for a runoff is quite perplexing. We are also going to disrupt our schools — then we say we are concerned about our students. Are we really?
Many citizens would agree that the present results of the Nov. 7 elections, where the runner-up failed to receive 40 percent of the votes cast and the front runner received more than 45 percent, was a clear indication of the choice of the majority of the voters. To be required to have a runoff under these circumstances is unreasonable and costly. We need to think through what is needed for comprehensive electoral reform, including the amending of the Organic Act to correct the anomaly we are experiencing today. I am not sure the present representatives we have in the 26th, or even those entering the 27th Legislature, are prepared to address comprehensive electoral reform. However, the public — the people — should be prepared to demand comprehensive electoral reform that will improve our democratic system of government.
If we believe in democracy and want our government to improve, let us promote electoral reform to include amending the Organic Act. Until we arrive at a point where we are prepared to adopt a constitution acceptable to the majority of citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands, we should let the Organic Act of 1954, as amended, serve us well in meeting our needs and aspirations. One thing I am sure of is that the electoral provisions need amending to avoid the onerous interpretation of the 50 percent-plus-one provision, which is affecting the election process. Let us see who will take the initiative on behalf of the people and seek the amendment of the Organic Act that will change the 50 percent-plus-one threshold for winning an election. It could be any of our elected representatives, but I believe it falls more directly on the delegate to Congress, since it is Congress that has the authority to amend the Organic Act. Let us as a people exercise good judgment and demand the needed changes from our representatives in government. Let us exercise people power as responsible citizens and instruct our representatives in government, both in the executive and legislative branches, what we want them to do for us.
J.J. Estemac
St. Thomas

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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