ST. THOMAS — The V.I. Elections Board failed to meet Thursday after not enough board members showed up to form a quorum.
Board members, who filled out worksheets to get paid, will try to meet today to address the agenda for Thursday’s cancelled meeting as well as the testing of the voting machines.
On Thursday, board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. insisted a meeting take place; however, St. Croix Deputy Elections Supervisor Terrell Alexandre said he didn’t know what time a meeting would take place today, after Thursday’s meeting ended in a disjointed discussion. Several board members said they wouldn’t be able to attend any meeting today.
Machine testing will begin at 4 p.m. today on St. Croix and at 5:30 p.m. on St. Thomas, elections officials said.
On Thursday, board members from St. Thomas and St. Croix conducted a lengthy informal discussion via teleconference to discuss whether or not voters could be registered between the General Election and a runoff election.
Watlington took the position that because a runoff election isn’t mentioned in specific sections of the V.I. Code, it isn’t clear whether voters could be registered between the elections.
The conflict arose after a report issued by Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes called a vote by the Elections Board a “tacit approval” of allowing voters registered between the General and runoff elections to vote in the runoff.
“What’s the difference between me not voting in the General Election and voting in the runoff?” Watlington said.
“I don’t know if a runoff is defined as an election for the purposes of Section 94,” he added.
St. Croix board member Lisa Harris Moorhead said runoff elections should be considered a continuation of the General Election.
“You’re talking about someone who was registered for the General and opted not to vote?” she said. “They were registered by the cutoff time for that election.”
The dispute arose over Title 18, Chapter 5, Section 91 of the V.I. Code, which allows for voter registration “except during the period of 30 days immediately preceding and five days immediately following each election.”
Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 1 defines a runoff election as “an election that allows for the selection between the choices receiving the first and second largest number of votes cast in the General Election.”
The same section defines election as “any general or primary election, unless otherwise specified or indicated as in the term ‘primaries and elections’ where the intention is to refer to primary elections and General elections.”
Run-off elections are not specifically listed in the definition, Watlington noted.
“It’s an issue,” he said. “Election does not mean a runoff.”
Omitting the runoff from the election definition was absurd, Harris Moorhead said.
“Well, if that’s the case, then it has to be part of the previous election,” she said. “What else could it be? A bird-watching expedition?”
Next month’s election is Nov. 6, meaning registration reopens on Nov. 11, a date noted in the Elections Calendar. A run-off election — if no candidate wins an outright majority of the Nov. 6 vote –—would be held on Nov. 20.
The question is whether voters registered between Nov. 11 and Nov. 20 could be allowed to vote in the runoff.
Harris Moorhead suggested registering voters as usual, but flagging voters registered in that nine-day period so they can’t vote in the runoff election and suggested Fawkes could seek out a legal opinion, potentially to include V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker.
“Let her choose who she’s going to use?” Harris Moorhead said. “Why do we have to dictate?”