Home News Local news St. Croix Elections Officials Begin Counting Absentee Ballots

St. Croix Elections Officials Begin Counting Absentee Ballots

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Nov. 8, 2006 – The St. Croix District Board of Elections began the long process of counting up all the absentee votes Wednesday — ballots that may or may not decide if there will be a runoff election between gubernatorial candidates John deJongh and Kenneth Mapp.
Unofficial returns of Tuesdays election put deJongh in the lead. However, he only received 49.33 percent of the vote — less than the outright majority (50 percent plus one vote) needed to win the gubernatorial election. Mapp received 27.1 percent of the vote. Both candidates said Tuesday night that they dont expect the absentee votes to make much of a difference, and are preparing, along with the V.I. Election System, for a runoff election Nov. 21.
Election System Supervisor John Abramson said Wednesday that by law, both the St. Croix and St. Thomas Boards of Election have 15 days to certify an election. However, the Nov. 21 runoff is 14 days away, and Abramson said he does not expect the absentee vote count to rule out a runoff.
"We are working to prepare for the runoff even as they count the absentee ballots," said Abramson. "Its like starting all over again. The only difference is changing the date and the ballot on the voting machines."
He said one thing that wont change is the position of the candidates on the ballot. Abramson said that both deJongh and Mapp agreed Wednesday to keep their positions, numbers one and two respectively, on the ballot. Abramson said this will speed up preparation for the runoff and will cost less money. None of the candidates will have to change their campaign posters.
"It will save us about two days in preparation," said Abramson.
Meanwhile, the St. Croix District Board of Elections started counting the absentee votes. On St. Croix there are 742 absentee votes, which are broken down into walk-in votes (455), mailed votes (245), faxed ballots (7), and provisional votes (approximately 35).
According to St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Rupert Ross, provisional votes are those ballots where a person voted at a polling place, but might not have been registered to vote in that precinct. For instance, a person walks into a polling place, but the poll workers cannot find the persons name on the rolls. The person insists on voting, and is given a provisional ballot. The Elections Board then reviews the ballot and decides if it is valid.
Wednesday, the St. Croix Board of Elections started the absentee vote counting process by focusing on the walk-in votes. The locked box containing all 455 walk-in votes was opened by Ross and was then separated into bundles of 25. Board Secretary Raymond Williams then read aloud each voter name on the first 50 ballots, which were recorded and verified to be on the voting rolls. After verification, board vice chairman Dodson James read out the votes to board members and other election workers who marked down the votes on their own list of candidates.
Wednesday, the board had finished 150 walk-in votes, however, no totals have been added up so far. That will be done after all 455 walk-in votes are opened and read.
The process is slow, but Ross said it has to be that way to maintain accuracy.
"Lets be sure with this and do it slow and with transparency," Ross told the board.
But even after the walk-in votes are counted, the board still has to count the provisional and mail-in ballots. By law, the mail-in votes cannot be counted until 10 days after the general election.
Watching the count were interested residents, the local media and representatives of the all the candidates in the election.
Some votes were voided immediately, because when they were opened they had been put into the incorrect envelopes. There were around five votes that were challenged by either the board or the candidate representatives. Some of these ballots were marked incorrectly. The board will review these challenges at the end of the count, and according to Abramson, "will determine the intent of the voter" to see if the ballot is valid.
If a runoff between deJongh and Mapp is to be avoided, deJongh would have to get 61 percent of the absentee votes from both St. Thomas and St. Croix. There are a total of 1,877 absentee votes from both districts, and deJongh would need 1,156 of those votes to reach that magic number, 50 percent plus one vote, to win the election.
The board will resume the absentee vote count at 9 a.m. Thursday.
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