New vote system could be delayed
The next setup’s cost might go over budget, an election official says
State election officials hope to announce a new voting system on Dec. 5, according to Rex Quidilla, interim state election officer. But budget constraints could delay the process until precariously close to the 2008 elections.
State procurement law, Quidilla said, forbids him from releasing details about the bids, including the names of the people on the selection committee or the companies that bid on the service.
Quidilla said that depending on which vote count system is selected, the Elections Office might have to ask for more money because some of the systems under review cost more than the money appropriated. Total cost for the previous system was $2.6 million every two-year election cycle, Quidilla said.
"Based on the proposals, we may or may not require a legislative appropriation," he said.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said that if the Elections Office has to come in for more money, the state would not be able to buy the system until after a new state budget is passed in May.
"This means they can't buy it, and the 2008 election is coming up very quickly," Hanabusa said.
As interim state election chief, Quidilla named seven people to a committee to review the bids for a new system to count ballots in all federal, state and county elections.
The decision on the new system, Quidilla said, will be up to him, with consultation from the selection committee.
Asked why the composition of the selection panel was secret, Quidilla said it was "because of the procurement code law," adding that the state attorney general's office told him he could not give any details about the process.
Hanabusa said the Elections Office is making a mistake by keeping the process secret.
"Keeping this secret is the worst thing they could do," she said. "You are going to have a repeat of what happened in 1998."
That year, faulty machines provided by vendor ES&S forced the state's first-ever recount. The company paid $250,000 to settle contract disputes and $280,000 to recount the ballots after complaints about poorly trained poll watchers, malfunctioning voting machines and spoiled ballots.
Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has picked a chairman, William Marston, a retired data processing salesman who moved to Kauai from Newport Beach, Calif., in 2001.
"Moving the commission forward is going to be challenging," Marston said. "My job, as I understand it, is to bring the commission to some consensus."
He said he is "reverently, absolutely" committed to protecting citizens' right to vote, "and I will do anything in my power to make sure that no one gets an advantage or disadvantage."
The commission has eight members who are required to pick a ninth member as chairman, but had been unable to agree on a chairman until last week.
Having just joined the commission, Marston said he is not familiar with the issues surrounding the new voting system.
Quidilla said the commission's first major job will be to pick a permanent election officer.
Long-serving elections officer Dwayne Yoshina retired last year, and Quidilla was named interim chief. Quidilla said he has applied for the permanent job.