Home News Local news Election Officials Test V.I. Voting Machines

Election Officials Test V.I. Voting Machines


Oct. 29, 2006 — Voting machines in the territory were tested Saturday in preparation for the Nov. 7 general election. According to V.I. law, the machines must be tested 10 days prior to elections.
"We are ready for any problems that may occur," said Rupert Ross Jr., Board of Elections chairman. Officials also tested the tabulating equipment used to store and record votes.
On Election Day, the territory will utilize 182 voting machines, 92 on St. Croix and 90 on St Thomas-St. John. Each island has one backup machine. The number of backup machines should not worry the territory's 53,000 registered voters, Ross said, because the machines have the capability to handle all the votes cast.
"The machine exceeds the capacity of the number of votes that can be cast," he said. "One machine can accommodate 9999 votes."
Patrick Phillips, owner of P and P Consultants, said all the machines have been tested to make sure they are operating correctly.
"We make sure all the buttons are functioning properly, and then we seal the machines," Phillips said. After the machines get certified, they are sealed with a series of plastic locks. Phillips pointed to the back of the machine, showing where a series of numbered plastic seals — some white, some blue — are attached after the inspection is complete.
Seals are broken by election officials when the machine is opened at the polls, when the machine's back door is opened, when the polls open, when the polls close and when the cartridges are removed.
"If the seal is broken before its time, a technician has to be called," he said.
Phillips also explained the cartridges that record the votes. The cartridges are assigned to a specific machine, and if one is inserted in the wrong machine, it will give an error code. Before the cartridge is installed, Ross added, the board certifies that there are no votes in the cartridge and it is ready to accept votes.
In the case of a power outage, the machines come equipped with a 12-hour backup battery that kicks in as soon as the power goes off. "WAPA can't stop this show," Ross quipped.
The machines presently used were bought in the late 1980s and have been retrofitted three times. They were retrofitted recently to accommodate the visually impaired, Ross said. In past elections, they had to have assistance when voting. With the new equipment, he said, the visually impaired can cast their votes in private and independently by using a specialized hand-held remote control and headphones.
"Using the headphones, a ballot would be read to them in Spanish or English," Phillips explained. The automated system takes the voter through the process, even allowing voters to go back and change their votes if they made a mistake. The automated system even allows a voter to cast a write-in vote by selecting letters that spell the candidates' name, he said.
"We anticipate a successful election," Phillips said.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. for the Nov. 7 general election.
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