With all absentee and provisional ballots counted and tallied, the V.I. Elections Board on Monday certified the 2020 General Election, revealing no major shifts in candidate standings.
The official results, which can be viewed at www.vivote.gov or picked up at the Elections System offices on St. Thomas or St. Croix, show Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory and Kurt Vialet remaining the top Senate vote-getters for the St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix districts, respectively.
Frett-Gregory, a Democrat, and Independent Sen. Janelle Sarauw battled closely for the top spot, with Frett-Gregory ultimately finishing with 4,855 votes, edging out Sarauw by just 28 votes.
Sarauw was followed by Democrats Milton Potter, Carla Joseph and incumbent Sen. Marvin Blyden. Independent Alma Francis Heyliger and incumbent Sen. Dwayne DeGraff rounded out the top seven.
Incumbent Sens. Athneil Thomas and Stedmann Hodge Jr. failed to make the top seven, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.
On St. Croix, Vialet finished with a commanding 4,852 votes, nearly 1,000 votes ahead of second-place finisher Genevieve Whitaker. Incumbent Sens. Novelle Francis Jr. and Javan James Sr. came in third and fourth, followed by Franklin Johnson, Samuel Carrion and incumbent Sen. Kenneth Gittens.
Incumbent Sens. Oakland Benta and Allison DeGazon failed to make the top seven, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.
Incumbent Senator At-large Steve Payne Sr. ran unopposed and will remain for the 34th Legislature.
V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett handily defeated challenger Shekema George — 13,620 to 1,782 votes.
The certification of the 2020 General Election brought an end to a whirlwind election season of pandemic adjustments, record-setting early voting and longer-than-expected lines.
Elections Board Chairman Raymond Williams said the election cycle, despite a few hiccups and some lessons learned, was ultimately a success, particularly the high early voting turnout and the expansion of absentee voting.
“I think early voting is a phenomenon that is catching on in a big way in the Virgin Islands,” Williams said.
Indeed, a total of 8,175 or 15% of registered voters voted early in the General Election. The last non-gubernatorial election in 2016 had just 5,063 early voters, a difference of 3,112.
Williams also praised the decision to expand the option of absentee voting to any Virgin Islander who wished to do so, regardless if they met previously required criteria.
“I think we’ll ask the Legislature to make this a permanent amendment because we don’t know what COVID will be like in a year or two,” Williams said.
For lessons learned, Williams said there needs to be a “deeper dive” into the selection of voting centers and the allocation of resources to ensure voting moves more smoothly — particularly on St. Croix.
Unlike the last two elections, which both had at least eight polling sites on St. Croix, this year’s General Election had only four, with the St. Croix Educational Complex shouldering five different precincts.
The consolidation sought to take advantage of larger, more spacious sites that could enhance social distancing. However, the Elections Board didn’t expect the high turnout, especially for a mid-term election in the middle of a pandemic.
The result was long lines, with some voters waiting for as long as two hours.
Williams acknowledged the unprecedented nature of this year’s election and thanked the V.I. Department of Health for their safety guidelines. He also thanked election officials and staff, as well as the board for conducting an election under less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I think they did a yeoman’s job,” he said.