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Elections Board Votes to Limit Chairman’s Power

The St. Croix Board of Elections met for almost two hours before the shouting began, when the board passed two motions to limit Chairman Adelbert “Bert” Bryan’s authority.

Then tempers cooled, and board members continued discussions on the upcoming election.

One motion, passed by a vote of six to 1, ordered Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes to “cease and desist” paying bills not approved by the board. Rupert Ross, past board president, said Bryan overstepped this authority by renting a car, hiring a special assistant and changing the locks at the St. Croix office without board notice or approval.

“The supervisor confirmed she has paid vendors for various activities this board did not authorize,” Ross said.

Another motion, passed by a vote of 5 to 1 with one member abstaining, permits only government employees to drive Election’s government-owned vehicles. Raymond Williams, Roland Moolenaar and Lisa Harris-Moorhead are the only government employees on the board, along with the Elections staff.

Bryan argued that board members should be allowed to drive vehicles, but Harris-Moorhead pointed out government insurance only covers government employees.

According to Ross and others who chimed in, Bryan also used official letterhead in September to request the 30th Legislature convene a special meeting about Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen’s eligibility to hold office. Members shouted they did not approve such action. Later in the meeting, Fawkes said the Hansen case is “ongoing,” but didn’t elaborate.

After Bryan, Ross and Raymond Williams loudly exchanged accusations, Harris-Moorhead ended the volley with “In 2011, you (Bryan) could have commented on it, but this is 2014.”

Board members Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, Glen Webster and Roland Moolenaar remained silent during the argument.

“Ms. Fawkes, if this board doesn’t authorize it, if this board doesn’t approve it, don’t pay it,” Bryan said, ending the argument.

The meeting continued in an orderly manner for another two hours while the board discussed some of the details of the upcoming general election.

Fawkes confirmed that necessary equipment and supplies will be on hand before the Nov. 4 election. Only ballot boxes and “sip and puff” for voters with disabilities have not arrived. "Sip and puff" is a voting tool that allows disabled people to control the voting machines and make their choices using air pressure, either "sipping" (inhaling) or "puffing" (exhaling.)

Ballots for St. Croix have not been printed but will be ready in October once the form has been finalized. Each ballot will cost $.48 in color or $.28 in black and white. According to Fawkes, the voting equipment may have trouble reading colored ballots. She asked for a motion to put Act 7429, limiting legislative terms, printed on the ballot.The board discussed and changed some colors. Ross and de O’Neal will insure the correct Spanish translation is used on the ballots.The Department of Property and Procurement will print 2,000 sample ballots after the final revisions are approved for the ballot, Fawkes reported.

Previously, the board approved a budget of $420,000 for the St. Croix district election.

The board determined that provisional ballots would be given to anyone who wants to vote and is not on the registration list, either at the Elections office or the polling site. When the ballots are counted, the board will determine if the vote should be included.

There was repetitive discussion about press releases and advertising in Spanish. Genevieve Whitaker, assistant supervisor, tried several times to report where Spanish translations were available, but was interrupted repeatedly by board members.

In other action, the board set Oct. 14 and Oct. 29 as the dates set to test two DS200’s to be used for early voting in the Elections System office and two machines for the general election at polling sites.

The board agreed to audit three precincts from the primary election for accuracy this week and will hold a training session for staff and volunteers on Oct. 24.
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Terrell Alexandre, St. Croix board assistant, reported 47 new voters were registered in September and voting equipment demonstrations will continue at schools and other locations in October. Residents can register through Oct. 5 during extended hours at the Elections office. The office is open until 7 p.m. weekdays and from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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