Bill seeks to prioritize elections at City Hall
An event conflict this year delayed setup of absentee booths
Elections would take precedence over other activities set for the Honolulu Hale courtyard under a City Council bill.
The bill was introduced after a conflict between absentee voting setup and an event to observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. City elections officials said they were told by the city administration that they could not complete the setup of the absentee walk-in voting in the courtyard as they normally do days ahead of time. That's because the remembrance walk -- scheduled the night before the Sept. 11 start of absentee walk-in voting -- might have had to move inside in case of rain.
The delay caused some problems, City Clerk Denise DeCosta said.
"We did what we could prior to the Sunday event but we couldn't set up until the Sunday night, the night before absentee walk-ins started. That was very hard on my staff -- we had to bring people in on overtime to do that," DeCosta said.
"We always have a tug-o-war between us and (the Mayor's Office of) Culture and the Arts over use of the courtyard," DeCosta said. "So this is to ensure that we don't have any confusion next time ... during election time, we would be able to use the courtyard."
Michael Pili Pang, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Culture and Arts, could not be reached for comment.
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The setup of walk-in absentee voting stations at Honolulu Hale was delayed due to contingency plans for a 9/11 event.
But city spokesman Bill Brennan said absentee walk-in voting is always a priority for the administration.
"I think it's unnecessary legislation because absentee voting is always a priority in the Honolulu Hale courtyard -- has always been, was this September, will be again in November," Brennan said.
About 500 people participated in the Sept. 10 walk that wound its way from Honolulu Police Department headquarters on Beretania Street to Honolulu Hale. DeCosta said that the City Hall voting stations were set up in time for voting beginning the morning of Sept. 11 because staff started as soon as it appeared the walkers would not need the courtyard.
Brennan noted he doesn't believe that the clerk's ability to set up for the election was compromised.
"We didn't get in the way of them setting up anything," Brennan said. "It's disappointing, though, to see her blame this event that honored the first responders as some sort of reason she couldn't get stuff up, when in the end she was able to be set up -- everything was in place and there was no delay or disruption," Brennan said. "All we did was apprise her of what plan B would be, but we never went to plan B." DeCosta said a law is needed so that election officials do not have this conflict with each change of an administration which oversees the use of city facilities. Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who introduced the bill, said: "We are electing who will represent us and who serves us in government and so we need to ensure that people can expect to vote when the clerk's schedule says the polls are open," Dela Cruz said.