State's top elections official will step down
Technology issues and public relations problems put a cloud over Yoshina
Dwayne Yoshina, the often-criticized state chief elections officer, will not reapply for his job.
After first asking for his job for another four years, Yoshina pulled back his application and told the state Elections Commission that he would retire, Elections Office spokesman Rex Quidilla said yesterday.
"He has submitted a letter to the commission notifying them that he will not seek a reappointment as chief elections official," Quidilla said, adding that Yoshina was not available to comment.
Yoshina has worked with state elections since 1981, according to Quidilla, and has been chief elections officer since the office was separated from the Lieutenant Governor's Office in 1996.
The Elections Commission is set to meet today to select an elections officer for the next four years.
In 1998, after dropping the old punch-card balloting system, Yoshina introduced a new optical scanned ballot that malfunctioned in seven precincts. The problems led to a state Senate investigation and a recount of the entire general election.
When Yoshina was reappointed to the position by the panel in 1999, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) spoke against him, saying he had arranged a nonbid contract for the computerized election system, failed to adopt rules for review of election materials and had poor public relations skills.
Yesterday, Hanabusa, now Senate president, repeated her concerns.
"Mr. Yoshina had problems relating to people. I think he was lacking in terms of people skills," Hanabusa said.
"The best way to put it, is yes, I have had my differences with him in the past, because of how he handled the elections, but it hasn't gotten to the point where I think he would be totally ineffective," she said.
Others have been even more critical.
Gov. Linda Lingle, who first criticized Yoshina for allegedly sending out duplicate absentee ballots in the 1998 election, said after last year's elections that Yoshina should be investigated.
The performance of the Hawaii Office of Elections is getting progressively worse and could make residents lose faith in the integrity of the system, Lingle said.
The governor complained that in some races it took more than a day for the elections office to report results.
"The situation has deteriorated over time. When you have an office that has only one function and that is to hold elections every two years, we shouldn't have this many problems with a state this size," Lingle said last year.
Quidilla, rumored to succeed Yoshina as interim elections officer, said he has not applied for the job.
"My concern and that of the staff is that the commission move forward fairly quickly to find a successor," Quidilla said.
Yoshina's problems, Quidilla said, stem from the state ballot recount, the first statewide ballot recount since 1959.
"Dwayne has done a very good job of running elections," Quidilla said.
Speaking about the recount, Quidilla said: "Dwayne took it on the chin. It has dogged him ever since. He runs good, clean elections."
Whoever is selected will have several important decisions to make. The contracts for the state's elections equipment, from its voting machines to its reporting system, are all up this year, Quidilla said.
The selection process itself may be hampered today because the Elections Commission has four members picked by Democrats and four members picked by Republicans. The eight are then to pick a ninth member. So far, the eight have not selected the ninth person.
Oahu Democratic Party Chairwoman Annelle Amaral yesterday said she had been trying to persuade Yoshina to remain on the job, but is now concerned that the commission will not do a proper search for a new elections officer.
"You had someone on hand who has an excellent working knowledge of elections, so I am going to ask the commission to take the responsible step and not just fill the position with a political body," Amaral said.