Updated: See Editor’s Note at End
A career Republican political consultant who published a book about manipulating chaos at the 2016 Republican National Convention and three of his friends just moved to the territory and are trying to run as V.I. delegates to that same convention. John Yob, Erica Yob, Ethan Eilon and Lindsey Eilon tried, unsuccessfully, to register to vote, but despite not being registered V.I. voters, are still on the ballot for Thursday’s Republican Party caucus.
John Yob is a Michigan-based consultant who worked recently for Rand Paul. His book, published in February, titled "Chaos: The Outsider’s Guide to a Contested Republican Convention," makes a case that what happens in the U.S. territories may make the difference between "chaos" and "catastrophe" at the national convention this year.
Ethan Eilon is a former executive director of the College Republicans and a political consultant who briefly managed Jon Huntsman’s 2012 presidential campaign in 2011.
Yob and Eilon worked together on the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Michigan Republican Pete Hoekstra. Yob’s political consulting firm Strategic National Consulting and Eilon’s political consulting firm Vertical Strategies share the same building, located 190 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Mich.
LinkdIn, the social media site for business resumes, lists Lindsey Eilon as executive director of the National Republican Women’s Committee and says she is based in Greater Grand Rapids, Mich.
The organization is a Super Pac organized to solicit donations. Despite the impressive sounding name, it lists receipts and expenses of $5,300 with the Federal Elections Commission all for the 2012 election cycle with no expenditures for candidates.
Both have extensive resumes in Republican campaigns and Yob worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008; Rick Santorum’s in 2012; and is former national political director for Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential run. Yob also worked on both of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s successful campaigns for that office.
St. Croix Republican Party President Herbert Schoenbohm said Yob "runs an IT EDC company in Red Hook," in an email publicizing an event promoting Yob’s book.
The Yobs and Eilons very recently moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Elections officials, the Yobs tried to register to vote on St. John, and then when unsuccessful there, changed the date of their arrival to the territory and applied again on St. Thomas, receiving voter registration cards.
The Eilons registered on St. Thomas.
Cards in hand, they put themselves in the running to be V.I. delegates to the Republican National Convention and appear on the VIGOP ballot. (See: USVI Official Republican Delegate Ballot in Related Links below)
On Friday, Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes sent a letter to V.I. GOP State Chairman John Canegata, saying the four people had been changed to "ineligible" and would not be eligible to register to vote in the USVI until March 27.
She said John Yob appeared at the St. John Election Office in order to vote in early January and that he’d been told he had to reside in the territory for 90 days before he can register.
"He informed the elections assistant he arrived on the island a week before, which made him ineligible. He then took the information gained and traveled to the St. Thomas Elections office and provided a falsified date within the parameters to meet the requirement," Fawkes said in the letter.
"We have also obtained a copy of Mr. Yob’s Facebook page, "which states they moved to St. John, USVI, on Dec. 18, 2015," Fawkes said.
Fawkes said the Elections office cancels voters ineligible on a routine basis, for not being in the territory long enough, for criminal convictions, for not voting in the past several elections and so forth.
"We turn people away every day. I don’t understand why this is has such a big difference," Fawkes said. She also said the Republican Party, not the Office of Elections, determined who was eligible to run for office, and the Office of Elections had no say or role in the party’s process.
Fawkes said that to her knowledge, there had been no formal protest of the decision to revoke their voter registration. Asked what they could do if they objected, she said they would have to take it to court. Meanwhile, they become eligible March 27.
A look at V.I. law at the online legal database Lexis/Nexis shows a 30-day residency requirement, but it lists Act 5352 of 1988 as the most recent amendment to the section. That act is titled "To Require a 90 Period of Residency in the Virgin Islands in Order to Register To Vote." [Act 5352] The text of the law requires residency "at least 90 days next preceding the date of the election."
Reached by phone, Canegata said the party had decided to leave the four candidates’ names on the ballot for now.
"We said let the election go forward," Canegata said.
"If they are truly qualified, okay. And if they don’t qualify, then we move forward from there," he added.
V.I. Republicans send nine delegates to the national GOP convention. Three of those are party officers who function as super delegates: the chairman (currently Canegata), the national committeeman (Holland Redfield) and the national committeewoman (Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal). Registered Republicans choose the other six and six alternates at the March 10 party caucus. Including these four, there are 42 candidates running for the 12 slots.
Canegata confirmed that VIGOP bylaws require candidates to be registered to vote in the USVI and registered as a Republican.
Yob’s book discusses the potential for delegations from small territories such as the USVI to influence the Republican National Convention.
In a blurb promoting his book, Yob said he wrote it "to give people who don’t understand the convention process a guidebook to the history of contested conventions, the contests that lead up to where we are today, and ultimately what can be done to help your favorite candidate win a floor fight."
In the chapter "Total Chaos," Yob outlines some of the scenarios that could lead to serious chaos before recommending ways to avoid it in the chapter "Potential Solutions.
"What if one candidate was able to get support from a majority of eight delegations by winning delegations with few delegates or free agent delegations such as Guam, Virgin Islands and American Samoa, but that candidate who achieved ballot access didn’t have a majority of the delegates to the national convention? Or worse, what if another candidate had a majority, or at least a plurality? The ballot access requirement has the potential to shift the national convention from chaos to total catastrophe," Yob wrote.
The Source reached out to Yob on Monday, asking about the book, the reasons for their move to the USVI, and for comment on the voter registration issue.
"It is unfortunate that Lilliana Belardo is attempting to use her authority on the Board of Elections to bolster her husband’s campaign for convention delegate. His campaign must not be going very well," Yob said in an email Tuesday evening.
Reached for comment, Belardo de O’Neal said it was a decision of the Supervisor of Elections and referred questions to her.
Asked about the V.I. law requiring 90 days residency that Fawkes cited, Yob argued that the letter of the law requires residency "for a period of at least 90 days next preceding the date of the election."
"The answer is that it means the statute clearly states that the residency requirement is from the August primary back, rather than from the date of residency forward," Yob said.
Fawkes, however, interprets the law to mean either 90 days of residency before being registered, rather than immediate registration upon arrival to the territory if the election is more than 90 days away.
"We will fight very hard to defend our right to vote and the rights of every other Virgin Islander to vote," Yob said, adding that he wanted to "thank the vast majority of the good people of the Virgin Islands for being welcoming, friendly, and helpful to people coming down to raise a family and create jobs."
Yob disputed that he was a recent arrival or moved here for a chance to be part of the V.I. delegation. He did not specifically address questions about the passages in his book concerning the importance of territorial delegates to preventing "catastrophe" at the Republican National Convention were related to the move.
"We started making offers on houses in St John in 2011 and have planned for five years to move here. We own a home on St John and our children go to school on St John. We more than meet the residency requirement to vote and run for national convention delegate,” Yob said in an email.
“We love St John and intend to live here for a very long time – hopefully the rest of our lives. We are in the process of opening new technology companies that will probably be located in Red Hook," Yob said.
Asked whether technology companies were a major change of direction for a political consultant and what sort of technology companies he envisioned, Yob said, "You don’t seem to understand my businesses. My USVI attorney has been working for almost a year to move/start tech companies down here. Approximately 80 percent of my revenues come from technology companies rather than consulting."
Asked about his IT companies seeking V.I. tax breaks, Yob said, "I have created and own a majority of several technology companies that we are considering moving to the Virgin Islands. Transaxt.com, vrmhq.com, signedapp.com, and several others."
According to their websites, those companies offer campaign and fundraising data management.
Editor’s Note: The Eilons did not try to register to vote on St. John, as an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated.