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Featured / News / Politics / Virgin Islands / November 12, 2014

Former technology territorial coordinator of the Elections System of the Virgin Islands, Tonjia Coverdale, Ph.D., who resigned her position just days before the 2014 General Election because of conflicts with the Joint Boards of Elections over the use of DS200 voting machines, has told VI Consortium in an exclusive interview that had the machines been used the way they were intended–for early voting and the Nov. 4 General Elections–the territory would have had results in two hours.

“We could have had all our votes–early voting and election day voting, excluding absentee– because with absentee [voting], they have to give voters up to seven days or so to receive it in the mail; [however] excluding those, we could have had everything read and reported in one to two hours, done,” Coverdale said.

Coverdale, a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, added that she was “saddened” by the length of time it has taken the Joint Boards to release official election 2014 results.

“I’m very saddened by it because we are seven days out of the election now and still no final tally,” Coverdale said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “I think my major concern is not only in the expeditiousness in which we could have had the results; but more so in the potential for disenfranchisement that could exist.”

She continued: “If they had utilized the machines for early voting correctly, all they would have done on election night, was press a button, and [the DS200] would have tabulated automatically.”

Tonjia S. Coverdale, Ph.D., MBA

Tonjia S. Coverdale, Ph.D., MBA

The professor went on to explain that the longest part in getting the results should have been waiting for the jump drives to come in from the various precincts spread about the islands.

“Once we get them to the computer, it takes less than 30 seconds. So I would say one to two hours [to find out results], and for it now to be seven days, I am just very, very disappointed in that, 2014, where we have the technology that is available to us, to provide us with speed of which we would like our reporting, and also the audit trail that could have been lost; and as a technologist, that really disappoints me,” she said.

In discussing the audit trail–a system that traces the detailed transactions relating to any item in an accounting record and any changes made to a database or file–Coverdale said the DS200 machine has a three-pronged approach when the machine is used correctly.

“The three-pronged trail is the jump drive, the tape and the ballot themselves, should all have the same full vote count,” she explained. “So, look at the tape that’s printing at the moment the polls were closed, if it said a hundred votes, then the jump drive should also record one hundred, then if you went and hand-counted the ballots, it should record one hundred.”

Coverdale said this process remains pure when it is not tampered with, meaning the DS200 machines should have been allowed to do its full work — from symbol voting, early voting and election-day voting–so that one vote count could be reflected on all three audit systems in place.

Coverdale added, if that process is not used, “Really, what you’re putting into the machine is a fabricated number. So, it’s not like a true, accurate number because there might have been 100 voters, but if you’re only putting 80 then all we know is that 80, where is the other 20? So, it really skews things a little bit in terms of the audit trail being true. It’s an audit trail for what you put in there, but not for totality, which would have been if you would have just let the free-flow of the machines be used.”

When Coverdale resigned in October, she highlighted that she had performed her Elections System duties “under the duress of personal attacks and disrespect from Board members, with utmost professionalism, impartiality and integrity.”

In that same letter, she listed a myriad of reasons why the DS200 machine is in compliance with Virgin Islands law, and noted the very same machine is being used in 14 states on the mainland.

“I pride myself as a technologist on my impeccable ethics and values and as such, I cannot allow myself to remain in a situation that may compromise my professional credibility both here in the U.S. Virgin Islands or elsewhere. Fully understanding that the election technology does indeed operate properly, I am unable to continue in my capacity and bear witness to the bastardization of the election technology which serves to potentially disenfranchise many voters, instead of supporting them as intended,” Coverdale wrote.


Photo Credit: Facebook




Ernice Gilbert
I wear many hats, I suppose, but the one which fits me best would be journalism, second to that would be radio personality, thirdly singer/songwriter and down the line. I've been the Editor-In-Chief at my videogames website, Gamesthirst, for over 5 years, writing over 7,000 articles and more than 2 million words. I'm also very passionate about where I live, the United States Virgin Islands, and I'm intent on making it a better place by being resourceful and keeping our leaders honest. VI Consortium was birthed out of said desire, hopefully my efforts bear fruit. Reach me at [email protected]

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