Senators passed multiple bills at Thursday’s Legislative session, including a bill that makes changes to the territory’s election system. The elections bill passed Thursday is separate from the election reforms recently submitted to the V.I. Legislature by the Joint Board of Elections.
The approved bill, sponsored by Sen. Usie Richards, was based on proposed legislation submitted by prior boards of elections. The measure clarifies definitions, prevents board members running for office from participating in election activities and gives the boards of elections the discretion to use the legal counsel provided by the V.I. Attorney General’s Office or hire outside counsel. It also raises the per diem pay for election workers.
Several amendments were added to the bill before it was passed Thursday, including a provision in the V.I. Code to allow election officers to count votes from the electronic voting machines and ballot boxes containing paper ballots. The definition of voting machines also was changed to include only those machines U.S. Election Assistance Commission certified under the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Another amendment changes all references in the territory’s election statutes from “armed forces” to “uniformed forces.” The elections reform proposal recently submitted by the Joint Board of Elections has been taken up by Sen. Neville James, who said the first hearings on that proposal likely will begin in January.