Premier Andrew Fahie extended congratulations from the Virgin Islands to United States President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on Saturday, shortly after news outlets called the election in their favour.
“This election is historical and of tremendous significance to many people around the world as Mrs. Harris becomes the first female US vice president, the first black US vice president, and the first US vice president of Caribbean heritage and of South Asian heritage,” Mr. Fahie said in a statement.
Following a record-setting race for the US presidency, international news outlets have identified Mr. Biden as the new president elect. However, sitting President Donald Trump refuses to concede the race, alleging voter fraud without providing substantive evidence.
The 2020 election turnout hit a 50-year high, with ballots counted from 62 percent of the eligible voting-age population so far, according to the Associated Press. Mr. Biden won about 75 million votes to Mr. Trump’s approximately 70 million.
News organisations began calling the election in favour of Mr. Biden on Saturday, after they reported that he had garnered enough ballots to secure the 20 electoral votes from Pennsylvania needed to meet the winning threshold of 270.
Meanwhile, Democrats are expected to retain control of the House of Representatives: Yesterday they were closing in on the 218 seats needed for the majority, with 217 seats to Republicans’ 203. The race to win control of the US Senate, however, is still undecided and is likely to hinge on two runoffs in the state of Georgia.
With such close races at hand, VI community members took to social media to share stories of their efforts to vote from abroad despite the challenges of the pandemic.
“There are folks who believe that because they don’t live in the states that they aren’t affected by US politics,” wrote Deirdre Frett Dee in a post about absentee ballots. “The reality is US politics affects the Virgin Islands.”
Tortola resident Judy Petz wrote that she “voted and reminded all Americans to get their ballots in” before voting deadlines. Tetyana Hayes from Charlotte Amalie echoed how important it was for those living outside the continental US to exercise their right to vote.
“US politics affect the whole world,” Ms. Hayes added.
VI community members also discussed the measures they took to ensure their votes were counted. Tortola resident Carol Siminoff said she spent $125 to get her ballot here and back in time to be counted, but said the cost was worth it.
“It needed to be done as I could not guarantee getting my mail here,” Ms. Siminoff wrote. “Hopefully it will be money well spent!”
Mr. Fahie said the territory looks forward to “continued warm relations between the BVI and US,” especially given their close ties through tourism, trade and education.
“There are many global challenges where robust US leadership is needed, such as Covid-19, climate change and economic recovery, and the Caribbean region is optimistic that these issues will be engaged by the new administration,” Mr. Fahie said.
Although Mr. Trump hadn’t conceded, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson proceeded with congratulating Mr. Biden on a win as well this week.
“I just spoke to [Mr. Biden] to congratulate him on his election,” Mr. Johnson tweeted on Tuesday. “I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities — from tackling climate change to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic.”
Other world leaders from Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Korea, Israel and more shared similar congratulatory remarks and expressed their eagerness to work with a new administration.
However, as of Wednesday, leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro withheld congratulations, apparently avoiding acknowledgement of Mr. Biden’s victory for now in light of Mr. Trump’s claims.
Virgin Islander Benito Wheatley, special envoy of Premier Andrew Fahie and policy fellow for the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge, said Mr. Trump’s early indication that his campaign would mount legal challenges in various states meant that the lack of a concession speech came as no surprise to many following the election.
But Mr. Wheatley said Mr. Trump’s position is very unlikely to change the outcome of the election, and most world leaders are ready to embrace the change in administration.
“The world is ready for an America that is engaged positively on the global challenges that confront us,” Mr. Wheatley said. “Certainly, US allies such as Britain welcome the coming change in administration that will broaden the issues on which they can cooperate.”
Mr. Biden is slated to take office on Jan. 20.
Also on Nov. 3, Puerto Ricans voted on a non-binding statehood referendum, the only territorial ballot measure to appear on the ballot in the US territory.
The referendum asked, “Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?”
Fifty-two percent of respondents — 623,053 — voted yes, and 567,346 voted no, according to Ballotpedia. All precincts had reported their results by yesterday, but the results still needed to be certified.
The ballot measure authorises the Puerto Rico governor to appoint a seven-member commission to represent the territory in matters and negotiations related to achieving statehood, and develop a transition plan for doing so.
However, the measure cannot compel the US Congress to act on Puerto Rico’s political status.