would oversee the
By Craig Gima
The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted unanimously to ask for a full electronic recount or audit of the general election, with oversight by independent observers, to restore public confidence in the voting system.
The electronic recount would use high-speed counters from Elections Systems & Software that were used to count absentee ballots in the general and primary elections, and would be backed up by manual hand counts of races in selected precincts. The high-speed counters differ from the precinct counters that malfunctioned during the general election and prompted the call for a recount.
Elections Systems & Software, the company that provided the counters and support for the election under a $1.675 million contract, will pay for the recount.
ES&S Vice President Tom Eschberger today said the cost of the recount will be "substantial," roughly about $100,000, and should take about a week to complete. He said he did not know when it would start.
"I appreciate what the Senate is doing," said Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina. He said this review would involve examining the ballots and precinct results, and would involve more than just counting votes.
State Auditor Marion Higa, Daniel McDonald from the Federal Elections Commission and R. Doug Lewis, director of the Election Center, a group that works with election officials, are being asked to serve as an oversight committee which will submit a report on the objectivity and accuracy of the audit. It will also prepare another report on findings and recommendations on the electronic vote-counting process. Both reports and audit results are due back to the Legislature by March 31.
Depending on what is found, said Senate Judiciary Committee Co-chairman Avery Chumbley (D, Kihei), the Senate could take further action by initiating an investigation into the election or by asking for a further audit of the primary election.
The resolution now goes to the Senate floor, then to the House.
Yesterday, Gov. Ben Cayetano criticized senators' efforts for the recount, saying it could confuse voters. "I would hope that before senators began to engage in rhetoric, they took the time to determine what the law is," Cayetano said.
"I think there were some senators who didn't have the experience and kind of went off the deep end without knowing what the law was," he added.
Cayetano said statements by some senators may have left the impression that recounting the ballots might lead to a change in the official election results.
But Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), a leader in pushing for a recount, said the governor is hung up on semantics, and it does not matter whether the effort is called an official recount or just an audit or review of the election. "All that is intended here is to restore the public confidence," she said.
Cayetano accused Republicans of taking advantage of the call for a recount to make it a partisan issue, and said that's not fair to Yoshina. "I think it was wrong for the defeated Republican candidate to allege fraud without any kind of grounds," Cayetano said.