Senators grilled Elections board members and staff Tuesday night about the 2014 primary, General and run-off elections. Senate President Neville James said at the beginning of the Committee of the Whole hearing that the purpose of the meeting was to talk about the issues that came up during the 2014 election cycle, and not to discuss election reform. He said election reform would be a topic for a future hearing. During Tuesday’s committee meeting, senators often were frustrated by the lack of a unified voice from the Elections board members. Sen. Kenneth Gittens said every time someone made a statement, some board members would be nodding in agreement and some would be shaking their heads in disagreement. “Not even a choir singing here today, everyone with their own sheet of music,” Gittens said.
At one point during the meeting, Sen. Jean Forde suggested that the two district boards of Elections be eliminated and reduced to one territorial board.
Several other senators agreed, and Gittens said he is drafting legislation to that effect along with other reforms to the election system. “One thing you all are consistent with, is just being dysfunctional,” Gittens said. “We want progress but we don’t want change. But with progress comes change, we need to understand that.”
Senators noted the confusion and challenges surrounding the 2014 elections: inclement weather; a federally mandated earlier primary; a last-minute early voting mandate; paper ballots and new scanning machines; a half a dozen lawsuits; a candidate on St. Croix who led a write-in campaign using stickers that could not be scanned by the machines; and a problem with the programming of the machines that led to hundreds of ballots having to be counted by hand.