With the General Election looming Nov. 8, St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections members worked on Thursday to go over several operational issues, including regulations governing polling places, “electioneers” at the polls and voting machines.
In her update to the district board, Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes said “everything is in place” for a “successful” General Election. This week, 17,600 ballots came in for the election and Fawkes said the focus now is on getting absentee ballots in by the Oct. 19 deadline.
The supervisor said the deadline mostly applies to those ballots that are mailed in and, so far, Elections has received ballots from 12 uniform overseas voters. Another 86 ballots have to be mailed out and another 53 more are anticipated to be walk-ins, she added.
Elections has continued to run a public education campaign over the radio and newspapers to keep voters informed of the deadlines and, with that in place, Fawkes said:
– her office has continued to send out requests to other agencies for support during the election, including the V.I. Departments of Police, Education, and Property and Procurement, and commercial security companies;
– that voting equipment has been charged and continues to be plugged in in preparation for the election;
– that early voting will continue as planned Oct. 22-31 starting at 9 a.m. in all Elections System offices;
-and that Elections will be enforcing rules that keep “electioneers,” or supporters that stand outside polling sites and campaign for different candidates, 200 feet away voting machine equipment. Board members said this issue presents a “unique” situation for police monitoring some polling places, such as Charlotte Amalie High School, where campaigners work outside the fence, which is close to the actual poll.
Fawkes said that Elections will be increasing its signage around the polling sites so that electioneers know where to stand and also to designate handicap accessible features at the polling sites, among other things.
Fawkes also said that the Senate is still finalizing the system’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which includes $80,000 for both district boards, $1.4 million for the Supervisor of Elections’ Office and $350,000 for the General Election, based on recommendations from the government.
To date, Fawkes said, expenses for the election total $152,000, with another $29,440 encumbered.
Fawkes also spoke about the system’s transition to new voter identification cards and said that during a recent drive on National Voter Registration Day, 33 new voters registered, while another 20 came in to update their cards.
The next Joint Board of Elections meeting is scheduled for next Thursday.