Published: Dec 22, 2021

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Sen. Milton E. Potter, convened a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers voted on several measures including Bill No. 34-0149- An Act amending Virgin Islands Code Title 18, chapter 3, section 53 updating the record-keeping practices of the Board of Elections to ensure all official records relating to elections are accessible to the public through the use of technology and cloud-based services. All items approved will be forwarded to the Full Body for further consideration.

The measure seeks to update 18 V.I.C. § 53 which was originally enacted in 1963, to incorporate advances in technology as of 2021.  The bill requires that in addition to paper records, the Board of Elections must store documents in an electronic format, and the electronic records must be accessible for public inspection and copying, as stated on the bill. The Sponsor of the bill Senator Alma Francis Heyliger noted that the primary factors of the measure are inclusive of public trust and public access to the information online that is provided by the Board of Elections. However, the Election System of the Virgin Islands Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes stated that the Office of the Supervisor opposes the bill for several reasons. Fawkes indicated that the Legislature of the Virgin Islands cannot legislate operations of the Executive Branch. Furthermore, there are risks with public access to the Voter’s Registration List to include exposing voters’ information to a foreign government and a person’s ability to compare voter’s information to data obtained in the Federal database. Sharing remarks, Senator Potter mentioned that based on the testimony, public access to the Voter’s Registration List can expose the Territory to security issues because it poses challenges if a perpetrator is outside the pool of elected voters. Ultimately, policymakers voted to hold the bill in committee.

Similarly, the following was also held in committee: Bill No. 34-0072- An Act amending Title 23 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, providing for the declaration of firearm components upon their entry into the Virgin Islands, and other related purposes. (Sponsored by Senator Dwayne M. DeGraff. Co-Sponsored by Samuel CarriÏŒn)

However, senators voted in the affirmative for the following:

  • Bill No. 34-0173- An Act amending Act No. 8479 to adjust the fiscal year 2022 budget for the University of the Virgin Islands; and making an appropriation of $280,660 for employment tax on the restoration of 8% of salaries owed to the employees of the University of the Virgin Islands. (Sponsored by Senators Kurt A. Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Milton E. Potter, and Alma Francis Heyliger)
  • Bill No. 34-0144- An Act amending Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 9, section 86 relating to school truancy to provide procedures for addressing unexcused absences from school and providing for related purposes as amended. (Sponsored by: Senators Novelle E. Francis, Jr. and Genevieve R. Whitaker)

Senators in attendance: Chairman Milton E. Potter, Franklin D. Johnson, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Steven D. Payne, Sr. Alma Francis Heyliger, Carla J. Joseph, Genevieve R. Whitaker.            ###    

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