Tensions between Board of Elections officials and a group of former candidates who maintain that the last General Election was fraudulent have escalated, involving a call to the police, invoking a moratorium on the review of elections records and resulting in the cancellation of a Joint Board of Elections meeting that was scheduled for today. For almost two weeks, a group of unsuccessful candidates and members of the group Virgin Islands United for Social Justice and Accountability have pored over tally sheets at the St. Thomas Board of Elections office. Animosity between them and the Elections System staff and board members has risen to the degree that Joint Elections Board Chairwoman Alecia Wells characterizes the group’s behavior as bizarre and Elections staff say they are being unduly harassed by the residents.
For their part, the citizens group contends that the Elections System has hidden cameras in the Board of Elections offices to surreptitiously record the people reviewing the tally sheets. In the meantime, today’s special meeting presumably was scheduled so the Joint Board of Elections could act upon filling the still-empty positions of Elections supervisor and deputy Elections supervisors in both districts.
The resident group contends that the review of the tally sheets comes after months of filing written requests and deliberate delays by Board of Elections members. Motivated by perceptions that ballot boxes had been tampered with, Diane Magras, who along with Harriet Mercer and Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, has been leading the charge for open-handedness and transparency with respect to ballots and tally sheets, called the police.
The call inflamed Elections staff and prompted Arturo Watlington Jr., chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections, to stop the review until the board holds a meeting on the subject. “There was no criminal activity afoot that would necessitate them calling the police,” Watlington said Monday.
… “Given the confusion of them calling the police, I am going to call a meeting of the St. Thomas-St. John board and let them decide where to go from here,” Watlington said. He said there are “seals” on the boxes and that security on them was maintained at all times by double locks for which Benjamin has the keys.
The purpose of the review, according to the group of ex-candidates, is to substantiate claims that, because of widespread irregularities and mismanagement of the election, results were skewed and office holders unjustly installed as a consequence.
Magras, Mercer and Marsh-Monsanto contend that the tallies for paper ballots contained in the documents do not match the totals given in the certified election results. Hundreds of paper ballot votes were counted but not included in the official, certified results, Magras said when the review began.
Elections Board members have said that they recognize the obligation to comply with the group’s requests under the Virgin Islands Code pertaining to public records. However, they also characterize the tally sheet review as nothing more than a means for the unsuccessful candidates to harass and embarrass them. Watlington also has called the review a last-ditch effort to undermine the legitimacy of the elections process by holding a recount after many failed attempts to get the judicial branch to overturn certified results.