Senate President Myron Jackson told The Consortium on Wednesday that a vote on the St. Croix Retirees Inc. reapportionment petition will be held next week, but Mr. Jackson expressed skepticism that the measure would pass.
The Senate president said senators have taken issue with a number of elements in the bill that they’ve deemed unconstitutional, and that the vote next week would likely reflect this position. Mr. Jackson himself will be voting against it, stating that he would abide by the law that demands the upholding of the Constitution of the U.S.
If senators disapprove as is expected, the petition — which garnered enough votes to be placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot — will be placed on a separate ballot during a special election whose date has yet to be determined. That’s because the early voting started on Monday, and as of Tuesday, senators were still debating the petition in hearings (the Senate, by law, has 30 days to deliberate on the measure.) Mr. Jackson also said that senators would introduce their own version of the petition and place it on the ballot. The measure that winds up with the most votes will be adopted.
Backers of the initiative see the new arrangement imitating the U.S. setup whereby at-large senators would operate like U.S. Congress senators representing the entire territory, and district senators operating more like those elected to the U.S. House of Representatives — through population and focusing on local issues.
The question that was approved by the Titling Board in April to be asked on the ballot starts by explaining the proposal: “Title 2, Chapter 6 of Virgin Islands Code entitled Apportionment of the Legislature is amended to read as follows: There are five Legislative Districts with 9 district senators and 6 at-large senators: District of St. Croix East shall have two senators, District of St. Croix West Shall have two senators, District of St. Thomas East shall have two senators, District of St. Thomas West Shall have two senators, District of St. John shall have one senator, voted on by the qualified electors of the respective districts. The proposal further states that there shall be six at-large senators, “three shall be residents of St. Croix and three shall be residents of St. Thomas, voted on by the qualified electors of the Virgin Islands Code.”
The question then asks: “Shall this proposal become law?”
The Titling Board also approved the question’s summary to be placed on the 2018 ballot, which reads: “This initiative seeks to amend Title 2, Chapter 6 of Virgin Islands Code entitled Apportionment of the Legislature to create the following districts: District of St. Croix St. East, District of St. Croix West, District of St. Thomas East, District of St. Thomas West, and District of St. John. The initiative also seeks to create the following at-large senators: Three shall be residents of St. Croix, and three shall be residents of St. Thomas.”