|Posted on October 29, 2013 at 5:20 PM|
Election Reform Testimony
Mr. Malone, President of the 30th Legislature
Approximately 15 minutes
Good Day 30th Legislature
I would like to share my experience with the Elections system and the Board of Elections with the 30th Legislature body, than you can determine if we need reform in what I now deem as a dysfunctional department.
Over the past year I kept hearing the stories about the Election System based on the 2012 elections. Although I am not a voter with good reason, the stories and my present experience with this department merely justifies my non-voting position.
If I am experiencing not getting documentation from the ESVI, there is definitely doubt in my mind about every other aspect of the ESVI operation. Why? Because what I am seeking is the foundation of any functional operation. The lack of policy and procedures or lack of them being updated is a clear indication that this department functions from the hip. The hip means, (It may function based on merely getting or giving verbal instructions from one person to another but an employee may not have a point of reference from a policy and procedures manual -hard copy documentation.)
I will elaborate at this time:
The goal of the Board of Elections: (According to the ESVI website)
To coordinate and implement all election related services and activities in the Virgin Islands.
On or about 9/20 I initially called the St.Croix office of the Election Systems and spoke to the person who answered the telephone, asking for the guidelines or procedures of the initiative process. She stated that Mr. Abramson was the only person who knew those procedures and he gave the procedures to the VI ACTION group, but he is since retired and she was not sure if anyone else knew them. I called the St. Thomas office and spoke to a Ms. Benjamin, she gave me Mr. Watlington cellular. He called me back and stated there were no guidelines for petitions and if I was doing the initiative process it was very difficult to accomplish from his experience. I asked him if I could send him what I had and he stated no, he did not have time and was catching a flight so he would not be available. I was not satisfied with his response, so when I shared it with the VI people one morning via radio, Ms. Benjamin seemed to call me back to follow up to find out if I got in touch with Mr. Watlington. I explained to her that I did but I was not satisfied with his response. She then told me that she spoke to Ms. Fawkes and there are guidelines and I should call Ms. Fawkes the following Monday.
When I spoke to Ms. Fawkes she stated she would email me what I needed. In the interim, I filled out and faxed the Examination of Records/Copy Request Form on 9/24 to the St. Thomas office. I did not receive an email from Ms. Fawkes so I had to call her again and she then sent a copy of TITLE 12 to my email. I explained to her that I had TITLE 12 already, but I wanted more detail information and provided her with a State of TEXAS link in the email that shows their detail procedures as an example of what I was looking for from her. She responded back with "cherish life and family" . I took it as an indirect threat. She later stated it was a mistake in sending that to me and stated their policies were not updated and she was new to the position. She stated when she gets the updates she would forward them to me and reassured me that the staff would learn the policy as well for the initiative process by cross training them.
I was not satisfy because I wanted to execute the initiative process NOW and this type of information should have already been in place being that it’s an ELECTION department and the initiative laws are on the books currently. This department merely FAILED to create procedures for the public. So I posed 6 questions to Ms. Fawkes to answer, hoping that this would help so I could get started. She did not respond to my email. I then called her and she directed me to Ms. Wells, by giving me her email ([email protected]) and stated she would be the best one to answer my questions. I emailed Ms. Wells on 10/4. I decided to contact the chairperson for St.Croix Mr. Bryan too. I also left a message on 10/4 for Mr. Bryan at the ESVI office. I did not hear back from either of them. I decided to email the entire board of Elections at that point. I used the format of the email address like Ms. Wells and out of 14 people only 3 people Mr. Daniel, Ms. Fawkes and Mr. Boschulte emails bounced back as undeliverable by my yahoo server.
I took it upon myself to contact the Attorney General office and spoke to a Mr. Anderson and although TITLE 12 states that the Attorney General has a role in the intuitive process, Mr. Anderson was not familiar with it. Mr. Anderson is 1 position down from the AG himself. He stated he would follow up with me and I am still waiting on his response.
I also called the Legislative Counsel and spoke to Ms. Thorton, since they too are a part of the initiative process, I think this lady was the only person who sounded helpful, but although she was looking at TITLE 12 of the organic act that states an initiative process, she told me that the initiative process only applied to local law and not Federal.
I called the Election Office again to leave a message for Mr. Bryan and Ms. Felix stated that she gave him the message the same day I left it for him the last time. Mind you I asked Ms. Felix the first time how often Mr. Bryan came into the office and she told me not often, but she will hold it for him when he came in. (Thank God for perfect time I guess). Mr. Bryan left a message on my voice mail but did not leave a return number to contact him back directly but rather left the numbers of the office and told me to speak to Ms. Fawkes who handles the day to day operations. I called the St. Thomas office to ask for Ms. Well because she never responded, fortunately she was in the office at the time of my call. She told me that she did not get my email due to the fact that she does not check the email for BOEL that was created about a week ago for the board of Elections. She gave me her personal email address to resend my questions to her. When she got my email she referred me to Ms. Kimberly Salisbury, the attorney for the Board of Elections. I called Ms. Salisbury and left her a message. I also followed up with an email. Ms. Salisbury then stated she would speak with the Board of Elections, when I asked her to give me an ETA, she told me she did not have one at this time.
I kindly told her that that was not acceptable to me and that I would give her 3 days to get back to me due to the fact, this is information that I am entitled to and my request time clock started on 9/24, when I filled out the examination and copy request form. I will email all of you this coming Thursday 10/24 (a MONTH later) to tell you if I got the information. So you tell me if we have a FUNCTIONAL or DYSFUNCTIONAL election office?
There is a saying and a tactic call "the run around" and my experience clearly shows this, in addition to also showing:
2. Possible Corruption
Which is 2 of the 4 reasons for a recall, so I see why the VI ACTION GROUP and others attempted to do just that. When you do in fact reform this process, make sure you give great penalty for government agencies and employees who failed to provide information upon request, because ESVI is not the only government agency who appears to violate our public record request laws. The DOE and the VIPD takes the cake in my book. And when we have penalties of merely $100.00 in a fine in violating the law by public officials, the public sees why the public servants don't take their requests seriously.
The initiative process is very important, (it's an election related service) it gives the people the ability to create their OWN LAWS. The fact that for all these years (since 1954)there may not have been any clear guidelines to hand to the people in a TIMELY manner, only leaves me to ASSUME that our board of elections NEVER wanted the people to create their own laws.
Now, this meeting may be more in terms of the voting machines, but I am stating this, I would not put these types of people in charge of voting machines if they can’t even get paperwork right. I see why there is a concern about the validity of the machines.
VI people I will say it again, we can have all the new machines we want but someone should also look at the source codes of these machines to make sure everything is legit in that aspect as well. Computers are only as good as what are programmed in them.
Some of you sitting before me today were on my email when I attempted to find out the initiative process, I even emailed some of you to seek a resolution, but may times, emails to elected officials go unanswered. Why should we take the 30th Legislator seriously when you don't give the same in return to the public? Bunkers and/or homes off island won't save those who do not take the people seriously when civil unrest takes effect. Your action determines everything, in which direction the island will or will not go.
Based on the outcome of sitting before you and seeing what laws the 30th legislature will indeed pass in regards to election reform will determine if the senate aids in our demise as well.
Thank you for the time,