An FBI agent paid an unannounced visit to the St. Thomas Elections Systems office, the board learned from Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes at their quarterly meeting Tuesday.
Fawkes said the agent was looking for election threats. He inspected equipment, computers, the system’s cyber security and was given a tour of the office. She said he seemed impressed, especially with the office’s security and storage systems. He did not visit the St. Croix or St. John offices.
After the supervisor’s report, Chairman Raymond Williams adhered to the board’s agenda and called for reports from the standing committees. He said the board members should work on their own and come to meetings ready to take action.
The personnel committee, headed by Lydia Hendricks, has reviewed salaries, evaluation forms and is writing job descriptions for board approval.
Alecia Wells reported that the finance committee has begun looking at stipends and staff increases. The full board discussed the proposed budget for 2020. The territory’s Election System is budgeted for $1.725 million, $140,000 for the board, $250,000 for the general election and $125,000 for a primary. She pointed out that it is the same as last year.
“We are expected to manage and run a board with the same money every time,” Williams added. With the rising costs of airfare and training sessions, he said funds won’t be available for travel and training in 2020.
The board then voted to send Williams and Fawkes to meet with the senate president and finance chairman to appeal for a larger amount. Lisa Harris-Moorhead added that the Board of Elections is one of the few boards without an attorney to advise them.
Harriet Mercer told the board her committee on election reform wants to hold at least five community meetings to get input from the public.
“We want to get them energized and get out and vote,” she said.
The board also voted to turn the former, dilapidated St. Thomas office at Crystal Gade and the office on St. John at Cruz Bay over to V.I. Department of Property and Procurement to be treated as derelict government buildings.
The board also discussed the need for new polling stations on St. Thomas and St. Croix, since two schools on each island have been closed this year. Hendricks said a west side location is needed because the University of the Virgin Islands is too expensive at $2,200 for one day. Williams said there are not many options and new locations might discourage people from voting.
Fawkes reported that there are a total of 52,489 voters in the territory: about 25,000 on St. Croix and on St. Thomas and 2,167 on St. John.
At the end of the meeting and after an executive session, the board voted to approve the Elections calendar, pending dates.
Attending the meeting at the V.I. Cardiac Center were: Williams, Harris-Moorhead, Frederick Espinosa, Epiphane Joseph, Glenn Webster, Wells, Hendricks, Mercer, Atanya Springette and Shikima Jones.
Members Barbara Jackson McIntosh, Arturo Watlington, Jevon Williams and Maurice Donovan were absent.