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Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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Weather, Machine Trouble Further Slow Ballot Count

Both districts made little headway Friday in the closely monitored count of the remaining general election ballots, with wet and gloomy weather dampening St. Croix’s progress and technology problems stopping the count for the St. Thomas-St. John District.

The St. Thomas-St. John District Board started counting at 10 a.m., but instead of continuing late into the night, as they did in the last two days, they halted at around 4 p.m. when the DS200 tabulator became “uncooperative,” according to St. Thomas-St. John Board Chairman Arturo Watlington.

Before the machine trouble, the board was able to enter into the total district tally numbers from 215 ballots cast at the polls, Watlington said. Of that number, 126 were rejected by the DS200s, while the remaining 86 were hand counts.

Many of the ballots processed Friday also went through duplication. The board had previously decided to remake ballots that the DS200s could not scan, but the board can interpret. The board’s solution was to copy the data from the original ballot — then marked “duplicated” — into a fresh ballot marked “duplicate.” The properly marked duplicates were then fed into the DS200s.

Roughly the same crowd of poll watchers observed as Watlington evaluated ballots to see if they could be “remade.” On several occasions Friday, poll watchers called out seeing mistakes made by the board members in the process. The board either followed the corrections or clarified certain points for the public.

For remade ballots, both the originals and the duplicates would be kept on record for inspection, Watlington said, acknowledging what he called “conspiracy theories that permeate the community.”

There are some 1,653 at-poll ballots that the St. Thomas-St. John District Board has to process, in addition to an unknown number of absentee and provisional ballots, according to Watlington.

St. Croix is a little behind schedule compared with St. Thomas, which ran reports more frequently, often after finishing a category of ballots. The Election System only updates the unofficial results if both districts have recently run reports. While St. Thomas ran its latest report at 2:15 p.m. Friday, updated results have not been posted by the Election System.

The St. Croix Board completed running ballots through tabulators late Thursday, and on Friday began hand-counting party symbol ballots, write-ins and ballots with stickers. To avoid having to open and sort all 14 precinct’s ballots before counting, the board decided to count all the votes precinct by precinct.

Counting began late due to torrential rains and flooding, and work began after noon Friday with the Charles H. Emanuel Elementary precinct. At 5 p.m. the board was still finishing Emanuel, with 13 more to go.

Because of a flood advisory, St. Croix Elections staff went home at 5 p.m. and the board stopped counting at 5:30 p.m.

"We wanted to get everybody home before it got dark," board member Rupert Ross said.

Both district boards are expecting the ballot count to go beyond the projected dates. For St. Thomas, it is unlikely that the board will finish counting by Saturday. Meanwhile, the St. Croix board plans to continue counting Saturday and each day until it is done, according to Ross, which may take until the middle of next week.

"But remember, we have to wait 10 days for the mail in ballots," he said, pointing out that there would not be final results yet in any event.

There were no updated results for St. Croix and it will likely be several days before there is any definitive new vote tally. Counting will resume Saturday in both districts, although it will start at 3 p.m. for the St. Thomas-St. John District.

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