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Sunday, at the final St. Croix District Board of Elections meeting before the November 4 General Election on Tuesday, new ballots without Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen’s name appearing on it were revealed by Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes.
In revealing the modified sample ballots, which are the result of an Oct. 24 Supreme Court order to remove the embattled senator’s name due to her previous convictions of failing to file taxes, Fawkes explained that the DS200 machines have been reprogrammed to only accept ballots without Hansen’s name.
In the St. Croix District Legislative contest, the ballot lists the names of candidates No. 1-9, immediately followed by the names of candidates No. 11-20. No. 10, the ballot number previously assigned to Hansen, is noticeably absent from the line up. A write-in section is provided following the list of names on the ballot.
In a brief report to the Board on ballot readiness, Dania Bolling, B.I.T. technologist on assignment to the Board of Elections as a technology/programming manager, said that as of 4 p.m. on Sunday, ballot testing had been conducted and completed at four precincts (polling stations), and that all 14 AutoMark machines, one for each polling place, had been tested.
“Yesterday [Saturday], I loaded the election on the machine, and up to this morning [Sunday], tested to make sure every single AutoMark have audio and it’s reading the correct ballot,” she explained. “Just like the [DS200], the AutoMark will not read ballots that come from a different precinct.”
Bolling was referencing the fact that each polling site has ballots specifically assigned to it, safeguarding against ballots being used or transported between sites. DS200 machines and AutoMark machines are also specifically coded to read ballots only from the site where the machines are located.
Bolling said ballot testing at the 10 remaining precincts will be completed by Monday, noting that each individual candidate’s name is tested to ensure that votes are being properly recorded.
On Election Day, it still remains that voters will cast their votes, either by manually making their selections on a paper ballot or by use of the AutoMark machine, which is available to voters who wish to have their ballot selections automatically marked. All ballots will then be stored in a secure box at the bottom of the DS200 machines and later be fed into the tabulator by authorized elections officials or hand counted after the polls close at 7 p.m. Only ballots not using symbol (Straight Party) voting will be fed into the DS200 tabulator. Ballots containing symbol voting will be counted by hand by designated elections officials. On Saturday night, the Superior Court in St. Thomas ruled in favor of allowing the Elections Board to use this method of tabulating votes to safeguard against cross voting Board members say exists when symbol voting.
Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan said, and Board members agreed, that those who took advantage of early voting in the St. Croix District, from Oct. 15 up until the Supreme Court’s Oct. 24 order to remove Hansen’s name from the ballot, will not be be disenfranchised. Those votes will be counted.
Fawkes further explained that the more than 600 ballots cast in early voting, which included Hansen’s name, will be hand counted by elections officials. Now that the machines have been reprogrammed to only recognize ballots without Hansen’s name, Fawkes pointed out, the early voting ballots without symbol voting can no longer be tabulated using the DS200. Prior to the machines’ reprogramming, early voting ballots without the use of symbol voting would have been tabulated using the DS200.
When it comes to writing in a candidate’s name, Board officials stressed that in addition to penning the correct name of the candidate, the bubble made available at each write-in space, must also be colored in in order for the vote to be recorded.
Later in the meeting, Board member Raymond Williams raised the question of how the Elections Board should handle possible scenarios of voters placing stickers on the ballot with a candidate’s name on it. To that, Bryan pointed out there is no Virgin Islands law that allows for names to be placed on a ballot using a sticker, adding that there are spaces on the ballots designated for “write-in not stick-in.”
In preparation for large crowds expected at the Elections office on Tuesday, Supervisor Fawkes said a tent will be pitched in the parking lot and three large televisions will be placed in the vicinity so the public could view results as they come in.
Sunday’s meeting brought out a sizable crowd of observers, including Senators Judi Buckley, Nellie Rivera-O’Reilly and Samuel Sanes, as well as senatorial hopefuls.
Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4 and close at 7 p.m.
Click here to see an image of the new St. Croix District ballot and here for an image of the St. Thomas-St. John District ballot.
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