seeks funds for
With 10 months to go,By Pat Omandam
the organization said it needs
financial support from the
If the state Legislature wants the 2000 state elections to go off without a hitch, it must provide the elections office with enough money to ensure that, say members of the newly reformed state Elections Appointment and Review Panel.
With 10 months and 22 days remaining before the state primary election on Sept. 23, 2000, the five-member panel said yesterday it needs more financial support from the next legislative session, as well as from the state Office of Elections.
Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina said budget cuts have affected direct services but have not resulted in any layoffs. He warned more cuts may result in less voter education next year.
The office has saved money by using existing materials and equipment whenever possible, he added.
"We've been living on surplus supplies and we're coming to the end of that rather quickly," Yoshina told the panel. "We're coming to hard times."
Following a 1998 election season in which Yoshina and the office came under public scrutiny over problems with a new voting system, the state Legislature this past session decided to make permanent the elections appointment panel. It was created after the elections office was removed from the lieutenant governor's purview four years ago.
The panel is required to create a program to review performance standards for the operation of elections and for the chief election officer, whom it can hire and fire, and make recommendations on ways to improve performance.
The panel approved administrative rules, which now must go through public hearings, on how it is to conduct its business. But with no money to advertise or travel to the neighbor islands for proposed statewide hearings, members complained lawmakers need to follow through and fund their legislation.
Member Julie Duldulao said the Legislature and others criticized the panel for its handling of the 1998 elections and passed a bill to reform it. But lawmakers did not provide any money to support the panel, which last year had a $5,000 budget. Duldulao said it needs more.
"I think this year we shouldn't take no for an answer," she said. Meanwhile, Yoshina said a request for proposals for a new voting system contract has been sent to nine vendors. Yoshina said the state procurement office is handling all the details of the new contract and would not elaborate on specifics about the bids.
He said a panel of state officials in the first week of March will choose the company that will provide the state's ballot counting system next fall. Election Systems & Software supplied the counting machines to the state for the 1998 elections.