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Community Center / News / Virgin Islands / March 18, 2019

Early voting has started for the Reapportionment Initiative, whose aim is to restructure the legislature from two separate legislative districts into five, with the legislature continuing with 15 senators: 9 district senators and 6 at-large senators.

According to the Election System of the Virgin Islands, early voting started on Saturday, with 139 people voting on St. Croix; 125 on St. Thomas and 8 on St. John, for a total of 272.

Early voting continued on Sunday and into Monday. It will end on March 22 ahead of the March 30 voting day for the initiative.

To vote early on St. Croix, head to the Election System Office in the Sunny Isle Annex, building 4 (adjacent to the Social Security Office). On St. Thomas, the Election System Office is located upstairs Banco Popular in Lockhart Gardens, and at the St. John Marketplace in Suite II on St. John.

The petition was originally supposed to be on the 2018 General Election ballot, but after collecting much more signatures than required by law, the petition suddenly faced a new hurdle: Because of territory-wide hearings organized by then-Senate President Myron Jackson following the initiative’s successful collection of signatures, the petition, which was already short on time to be on the ballot, missed the deadline. According to VI law, after collecting the requisite amount of signatures, the petition must be voted on by the Senate, which could then decide to approve, amend or fail it. However, for the petition not to be placed on the ballot, senators must act on it as presented in the petition. 

In October of last year, senators introduced and voted in favor of a bill that called for a special election set for March 30, costing taxpayers $145,000.

Proponents of the bill calling for the special election explained their support of that measure. Then-Senator Tregenza Roach, now the territory’s lieutenant governor, said the decision to change the current makeup of the Legislature should be placed before voters. He said additional education was needed on the potential changes.

Then-Senator Alicia Hansen, who also supported the special election, said it was important to give all Virgin Islanders a chance to be part of the change, so that “no one can say that they didn’t have the opportunity to participate in that decision,” she said, echoing the sentiment of Mr. Roach and other lawmakers who supported the special election bill.

The bill “gives the power to the people to go to the polls and say, ‘this is what I want the makeup of the Legislature to look like,’” then-Senator Janette Millin Young said.

Senator Dwayne DeGraff said it should be noted that both the majority and minority caucuses were in support of the special election measure.

The question that was approved to be asked in April by the Titling Board and placed 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.”

Ernice Gilbert
I wear many hats, I suppose, but the one which fits me best would be journalism, second to that would be radio personality, thirdly singer/songwriter and down the line. I've been the Editor-In-Chief at my videogames website, Gamesthirst, for over 5 years, writing over 7,000 articles and more than 2 million words. I'm also very passionate about where I live, the United States Virgin Islands, and I'm intent on making it a better place by being resourceful and keeping our leaders honest. VI Consortium was birthed out of said desire, hopefully my efforts bear fruit. Reach me at [email protected].

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