A sitting member of the St. Thomas-St. John Elections Board and three others have filed a lawsuit seeking access to the V.I. Elections System’s server, which the board’s chairman has criticized as frivolous.
Board member Diane Magras filed the action alongside Wilma Marsh-Monsanto and Margaret Price, both unsuccessful Senate candidates in November’s General Election, and Harriet Mercer, who failed to win a seat on the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections.
The group names as defendants St. Thomas-St. John Elections Board and Joint Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr.; board members Lydia Hendricks, Alecia Wells, Ivy Moses and Carla Joseph; Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes; Deputy Elections Supervisor Kevermay Douglas; administrative assistant Angel Bolques; the St. Thomas-St. John District Elections Board; Attorney General Claude Walker; and the V.I. government.
The lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to block swearing-in and inauguration of the elected winners, which the court has not granted.
Magras said Wednesday no hearing has been set on the matter despite the V.I. Superior Court taking up other issues filed after the group’s lawsuit was submitted on Dec. 23.
Magras has not attended Elections Board meetings in months, and she said she decided not to take part in any decisions related to the General Election.
“I purposely didn’t participate,” Magras said. “When I saw all of the corruption already starting from Day 1, the way they excluded me, I didn’t want to participate in actually any decision-making for this election. I saw it coming. I saw the train wreck where they continue the same pattern, the pattern of refusing to give out public information.”
She said the lawsuit’s goal is for the group to have access to the voting system’s electronic server, so they can conduct an independent forensic audit to determine whether the election was conducted properly.
If such an audit is done and no issues are found, Magras said she would feel comfortable returning to board meetings and serving out the second half of her four-year term.
However, Watlington dismissed the group’s action as frivolous harassment against the board with no clear purpose. He said it’s unclear how the suit will play out, given Magras’s position.
“She’s a member of the board and she’s suing herself?” Watlington said. “She’s a weird person.”
Magras indicated that her involvement in the lawsuit is as a voter.
“Yes, I am a member of the board, but I do vote and I want my vote to count. I feel if they don’t have anything to hide, they should have just revealed everything,” Magras said.
At a board meeting Tuesday, members voted to retain lawyer Julita deLeon to represent them in the matter and gave her instructions that if the board prevails, she should seek attorney’s fees from the plaintiffs.
Watlington said at the meeting that while he supports watchdog citizens, the board is “under siege” from the group’s repeated legal actions over the years.
He also said that the board’s audit found no evidence of inconsistencies or fraud in the most recent General Election.
Magras said that while the group has no evidence of election fraud, they want to electronically audit the server of the voting system itself, which she referred to as the “black box,” to verify the absence of fraud.
Watlington said it’s not the computer system that matters, but the physical paper ballots that voters filled out.
“He’s trying to gear it towards the ballots. It’s not just ballots, it’s the voting system. You need to have that black box,” Magras said. “Just like when the plane goes down, you know exactly what happened those last few minutes.”
Watlington explained that voters select their candidates by filling out a paper ballot, which is then fed into a DS-200 tabulating machine, and the results are audited by randomly checking the computer’s tabulations against the physical ballots to verify accuracy.
“I know the information goes to a server. I know the information is compiled on jump drives, and, if in fact we verify by random checking that the information on the jump drives and on the reports collaborate the existence of the paper ballots, that’s what counts,” Watlington said. “The paper ballots is what people vote on. They don’t vote on any machine.”
He said it’s unclear what, exactly, the group is seeking.
“I don’t even believe Diane Magras knows what’s a forensic audit,” Watlington said.
Magras insists that an audit needs to be conducted.
“A forensic audit needs to be done,” Magras said. “If it turns out that everything was on the up and up, then fine.”