Wednesday, March 17, 1999

State of Hawaii

Cayetano says
elections chief
deserves apology

But Republicans say that
Yoshina made a mistake in
getting the equipment

By Craig Gima


WHO'S sorry now?

That's the question Gov. Ben Cayetano says critics of chief election officer Dwayne Yoshina should be asking after the initial findings of a recount largely confirmed the results of the 1998 general election and did not find any proof of fraud.

"I think there was one allegation made about corruption and fraud. Another made about his competency. You know if you are going to say those kinds of things and you are proven wrong, you need to apologize," Cayetano said.

But Republicans say it's Yoshina who should apologize, not them.

"He made a mistake in getting this equipment and he should have to face the consequences," said Rep. Emily Auwae (R, Waianae). "After all the people in my district were affected by it, and we had a lot of stress over it."

Auwae's election was not certified until a day before the legislative session because of a court challenge over the high number of over-votes in the race. The office of elections and the attorney general's office insisted the machine result was correct and fought a motion to recount the ballots.

It wasn't until the Supreme Court ordered a recount in January that problems with counting machines in seven precincts were discovered.

"This entire recount was brought about by the complete lack of planning by Dwayne Yoshina and the office of elections and their poor implementation," said Republican Linda Lingle, who lost the gubernatorial election to Cayetano.

Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae Iki) testified against Yoshina's reappointment to a second four-year term as chief election officer.

"Public confidence and integrity of the electoral system must be preserved, and that would best be served by selecting a new person to direct our state elections," Marumoto said.

But Marumoto was in the minority. County election officials, state elections staff and election observers testified in support of Yoshina before the Elections Appointment Panel. The panel heard testimony on Yoshina's job performance yesterday.

Thomas Conlon, a Republican election observer, said Yoshina showed "great integrity and competency" in his job.

Conlon said when he first became an election observer, he was aware of rumors about abuses in the system. But he said Yoshina opened the process to his inspection. "I've seen a squeaky clean system," Conlon said.

The election appointment panel will meet with Yoshina on March 30. The panel will ask Yoshina at that time if he wants the hearing open or closed to the public. Another meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 31 to decide on whether Yoshina should be reappointed.

Ray Pua, chairman of the election appointment panel, said the panel will first decide if Yoshina should be reappointed before deciding if they will look at other candidates.

Defeated House candidates Alex Sonson and Steve Tataii have also applied for the job.

Pua said the recently concluded recount will play a part in the decision on whether to reappoint Yoshina.

"Obviously, the manual recount established the integrity of the election process. I would think it has some weight," he said.

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