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Joint Board Struggles to Elect Officers

After nearly a half an hour of confusion over the voting process, Joint Board of Elections members selected St. Croix member Barbara McIntosh as the board’s new chair, and St. Thomas-St. John member Carla Joseph as vice chair.

The board also discussed the recently signed law to unify the two Elections Board into one unified board, coming up with more questions than answers and deeming the law "impractical," and sought to forces the Attorney General’s Office to provide an attorney for board meetings.

Monday’s meeting on St. Thomas started out with a motion to approve a slate of candidates. When that failed, St. Croix member Lisa Harris Moorhead offered a motion to vote by secret ballot, with each member circling the candidates they wanted. Even though the motion was approved, no one knew exactly how to move forward for about 20 minutes. A motion to amend the motion by St. Croix member Adelbert Bryan – which took out of the running members that were not present at Monday’s meeting – was approved.

Eventually, the Joint Board nominated two members for each position. The names were written on a ballot and members selected McIntosh for chair, Joseph for vice chair and Arturo Watlington, Jr. as secretary. Watlington announced afterward that this would be his last term on the board and McIntosh immediately stepped in to run the meeting.

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The confusion didn’t die as the meeting continued, as Bryan kept stepping in to interrupt the new chair, but board members were able to get through a discussion on Act 7892, which was signed into law by the governor last year and seeks to consolidate both district Elections boards into one unified Board of Elections with 14 members.

In previous meetings, board members explained that language in the law gives two dates for implementation, one on Jan. 17 and another for after the 2018 general election. While the date first has to be clarified, board members added Monday that they didn’t know how to consolidate the boards since they recently swore in new members that would still be serving through 2018.

“I’m a bit perplexed because this is supposed to start during the next election cycle and we were just elected for four years,” new St. Thomas-St. John District Board member Maurice Donovan said. “So, I don’t know how this is going to work.”

Board members also suggested asking senators about their intent in passing the law, or asking them to repeal it.

“It’s impractical,” board member Glen Webster said. “It’s an impractical law.”

While there was talk about clarifying the law through legal counsel, board members also pointed out that the board has not had a consistent attorney, at least one provided by the Attorney General’s Office, for at least the past year.

Since then, board members have said that the Attorney General’s Office has said it is not responsible for providing the board with an attorney, but Moorhead said later that according to the law, Justice has not “been removed” from its duties in representing the board.
To settle the issue, Joseph moved to hire a private attorney that would work with the Joint Board, especially since Elections has been hit lately by a number of lawsuits, including one brought by sitting Board of Elections member Diane Magras.

Board members said that there was no budget for a private attorney and Joseph’s motion failed, but another motion was made to force Justice to send an attorney to Joint Board meetings if needed. Notice will be provided to the Attorney General five days before a meeting will be held and if an attorney isn’t sent, the board will take legal action, board members said.

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