ST. THOMAS — No money is available to stage a primary election this year following a vote by the territorial Board of Elections.
Board members Lydia Hendricks, Carla Joseph, Ivy Moses, Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, Adelbert Bryan, Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Barbara Jackson-McIntosh, Epiphane Joseph, and Raymond Williams voted unanimously without objection to reprogram $150,000 set aside in the 2018 budget for the staging of the 2018 primary election to the Election System as a whole.
On Dec. 22, Bryan made the motion on a second from Epiphane Joseph. He said he specifically objected to taxpayer money being spent to tally votes for party officers, typically elected during primary elections.
“They can hold their own convention and select their candidates for public office among themselves,” he said. “They can select the chairman, secretary.”
For example, during the Aug. 6, 2016, election, voters selected Carole Burke to go to the National Committee, former Delegate Donna Christensen for State Chairman, Edgar Phillips for St. Thomas-St. John district chairman. Voters chose James Weber III, Carolyn Burke, Ronald Moorehead, Ernest Morris Jr., Peter Abrahams and Karen Chancellor to represent St. Croix to the territorial committee and Riise Richards, Clarence Payne, Clement Magras, Claudette Georges, Ivan Williams, and Allyson Gregory to represent St. Thomas-St. John to the territorial district.
Those votes — which affected only Democratic Party members –—were held at the same time officials narrowed the Democratic slate of candidates to seven from nine in St. Thomas and St. John and from 12 to nine on St. Croix. Nevertheless, the money for the election was spent by all taxpayers.
“If they keep their convention and select their seven candidates, it would save money and time,” Bryan said.
The issue of whether or not party officials should be included in primary elections has been in the courts before. In June 2016, Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady ruled that the Board of Elections couldn’t exclude party officers from primary elections.
Republicans at the time said they wouldn’t have a problem administering their own elections. Democrats initially said they could, too, but later sued to have their own party offices included.
Online access to the V.I. Code through Lexis Nexis wasn’t immediately available Thursday, but the board has cited the section of the code reading “the Board of Elections will be responsible for certifying the process to be used by any political party to select party officers and candidates for public office.”
Democratic District St. Thomas-St. John party chairman Edgar Phillips said he had not heard any word, and that Democratic Party officials were expecting the primary to go ahead anyway.
Elections board member Arturo Watlington Jr. said the board anticipates having another meeting later in the month, but said a firm date hasn’t been set.
Primary elections aren’t typically held until late summer or early fall.
Territorial elections typically coincide with U.S. presidential elections or midterm elections. Election Day 2018 is Nov. 6.