Joint Elections Board Agrees on State Plan Review

The first discussion of the Joint Elections Board meeting Monday afternoon at the St. Croix Elections office involved the upcoming release of the Elections State Plan for public review.

Originally the plan was presented to the Joint Board in October, according to Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes, and since then it was updated.

Under the Help America Vote Act, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission collects state plans on election issues in the states and territories and shares the information with Congress, election officials and the public.

In August 2013, a federal audit for the EAC by the Department of the Interior found that millions of dollars of HAVA funds allocated to the territory were at risk of waste and fraud. The audit covered 2002 to the end of 2012 and cited problems with financial accounting and controls, as well as documentation for how funds were spent.

Included in the State Plan is the EAC audit and the August 2013 response from the Elections System. There also is a list of board members and a copy of the Organic Act with the 2013 federal audit and response.

The board agreed to use public service announcements to alert Virgin Islanders when the 30-day review period of the State Plan begins. Residents will be able to read and comment on the eight-section document online and in libraries throughout the territory.

St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan moved to hold the plan, but the board voted 5-2 to release it for public viewing before sending it to the governor and then the EAC.

The Joint Board also discussed but didn’t agree on how to handle transition documents from the incoming administration. St. Thomas-St. John Board Chairman Arturo Watlington said, since the Boards of Elections and Education are elected, they are not part of the administration transitioning from Gov. John deJongh, Jr. to Kenneth Mapp, the governor elect.

“I don’t see we have to answer for Elections or Board of Education. Our mandate continues to remain the same,” Watlington said.

Joint Board Chairwoman Alicia Wells suggested each member submit suggestions and recommendations to Fawkes, who would compile the list for review before sending to the governor’s transition team.

Wilma Marsh-Monsanto agreed that something should be sent to the administration outlining election problems and issues.

“There has been so much that went wrong. We should have had policies in place – not one was in place. We haven’t had policies for years,” Marsh-Monsanto said.

Watlington said he didn’t want other board members speaking for him and others seemed to agree, but no vote was taken.

The board adjourned into executive session to discuss personnel matters. Unable to get along for long, shouting could be heard from outside the closed doors for almost an hour before Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Rupert Ross, Liliana Belardo de O’Neal and Raymond Williams left the meeting, breaking the quorum.

Also attending the meeting were Claudette Georges and Lydia Hendricks from St. Thomas. Absent were Lawrence Boschulte, Harry Daniel, Roland Moolenaar and Glenn Webster.

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