Oct. 21, 2002 – Voters in the Virgin Islands can look forward to a faster check-in, and disabled voters will enjoy greater independence as they cast their ballots on election day, if the top official of the Elections System of the Virgin Islands gets his way on the use of federal funds recently approved to reform voting systems across the United States.
Supervisor of Elections John Abramson Jr. says he'd been studying the provisions of the Help America Vote Act prior to its passage recently by Congress. The act authorizes $3.8 billion to help states and territories modernize voting machines, upgrade voter lists and educate people about how to make their votes count.
How much federal election aid the territory will receive as its local share remains to be seen. Abramson said he expects to find out shortly.
For most of his eight-year term, Abramson has complained of the Elections System of the V.I. being underfunded. The new federal money won't reduce the cost of conducting local elections, he said, but it could help bring certain aspects of the balloting process into the 21st century.
Abramson said on Monday that he is looking forward to getting rid of the ledgers used to match voter signatures for identification purposes. In their place, he would like to install laptop computers that would accept voter registration cards the way store check-out systems process charge cards. With the swipe of a card, the voter's picture pops up on the computer screen, and identification is complete, he said.
Also under the Help America Vote Act, Abramson said, there will be funds to help disabled V.I. voters enjoy the privacy and independence other voters do. "Right now, we provide them with direct assistance," he said. "But under this system, for instance, if I was blind, and I could read Braille, I should be able to go into the booth alone and vote."
Most of all, he said, he would like to use some of the new federal funds to create a voter education campaign, thoroughly instructing voters on procedures, their rights as voters and the use of voting technology.
After spending days reviewing the volumes of text contained in the act, he said, he was pleased to see how advanced the local voting system already is. "Under the law, they want to have a paper trail," he said. "We're the only place in the nation that has had that, because we wanted to have something to verify what was on the cartridges that came from the voting machines."
(Abramson also issued a directive on Monday concerning electioneering on voting days. See "Electioneering policies released for territory".)
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