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Trouble in a Troubled Time for Boards of Election

The timing for the calling of a special election could not be worse for the Virgin Island Board of Elections. However, a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez that prevents Kevin Rodriquez from being seated in the V.I. Legislature, and a subsequent proclamation from Gov. Kenneth Mapp, makes a special election likely.

The Senate also appears to support the call for a special election, with Senate President Myron Jackson saying Wednesday that he has “been in communication with Senator-Elect Kevin Rodriquez and met this his family and supporters.”

It is the consensus of the Senate’s majority caucus that the special election “should proceed,” Jackson said.
The St. Croix District Board of Elections couldn’t even go about the business of electing its own officers Wednesday, when Barbara Jackson-McIntosh, vice-chairwoman, had called an organizational board meeting to elect officers.

The meeting was set for 10 a.m. but with only three board members – McIntosh, Raymond Williams and Lisa Harris-Moorhead – at the office at 10:30 a.m. the meeting was postponed to another day.

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Arturo Watlington Jr., former chairman of the Joint Board of Elections, was also present at the St. Croix Board of Election office. Watlington said he was on St. Croix for a hearing with Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady concerning a suit brought against the Joint Board of Elections by St. Croix district board member Adelbert “Bert” M. Bryan.

Watlington said that the St. Croix board might not have been able to get a quorum because “certain factions may want to prevent business being conducted orderly.”

However, the election board’s problems may be deeper than that. Watlington said he interpreted the judge’s recent ruling to say that the “elections board did not presently exist.”

Watlington said confusion surrounded the legitimacy of the present election boards because of Act 7892, which became law last year and aims to consolidate both district elections boards into one unified Board of Elections with 14 members.

Board members are confused over when the act can be implemented because members on each board have been elected to terms extended in 2018, but the consolidation is supposed to be this year.

When McIntosh was asked when the meeting to organize on St. Croix would be rescheduled, she was unsure. She answered in one week, maybe two.

Watlington said Mapp’s proclamation calling for a special election might have been too hasty.
Rodriquez was certified to sit in the Senate after winning enough votes in the November election. However, it was brought to the court’s attention that he was claiming residency in Tennessee in the same period, and in order to qualify for a Senate seat, he needed to reside in the Virgin Islands.

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