In a formal opinion he issued this week, acting Attorney General Claude Walker told the St. Croix District Board of Elections that voters must be allowed to feed their own ballots into voting machines in the upcoming 2016 elections. Walker was responding to the board’s request for his interpretation of two major court cases affecting how ballots are processed: the 1968 U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands case of Melchior v. Todman, and the 2014 V.I. Supreme Court case of Mapp v. Fawkes. In his letter to St. Croix Board of Elections Chairwoman Liliana Belardo de O’Neal, Walker said the 1968 case no longer applies because the law it addressed was repealed.
But the Mapp v. Fawkes Supreme Court case held that the federal Help America Vote Act applies to the Virgin Islands and effectively requires the territory’s boards of elections to allow voters to run their ballots through the voting machines themselves, Walker wrote.
“HAVA imposes significant requirements on state election systems and ones such requirement is that voters must be afforded the opportunity to insert their ballots into the voting machines in order to be made aware of any overvotes or undervotes prior to casting their votes,” Walker wrote.
When the Supreme Court issued its opinion, it overturned a Superior Court order.