Elections chief defends his lack of registration
State Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin is defending his performance and that of the Office of Elections in the face of criticism by Gov. Linda Lingle.
Caldwell faces challenge
A supporter of former city Councilman Duke Bainum filed a protest yesterday with the city clerk's office, challenging state Rep. Kirk Caldwell's run against Bainum for a Council seat.
The question of whether Caldwell properly filed for the Council election led Caldwell himself to ask one of his supporters to file a challenge last week. Caldwell said he wanted to clear up whether or not his Council candidacy is legitimate.
Yesterday, Bainum's attorney, Todd Eddins, said he was representing Amy Mizuno, an 86-year-old retired teacher, who lives in the Manoa-Moiliili-Kapahulu Council district.
Eddins charged that Caldwell "mobilized the city clerk and city officials to aid his election."
"It is an unlawful interference with the political process," Eddins said.
The Star-Bulletin reported last week that when Caldwell's nomination petition appeared not to have enough signatures, a worker in the clerk's office was asked to sign his nomination papers. "The deadline was past, and a city employee at the behest of the city clerk signed Mr. Caldwell's nomination papers," Eddins said.
Caldwell did not respond to inquires about the case. City Clerk Denise De Costa refused comment, but said a ruling on Caldwell's own challenge is expected tomorrow.
Richard Borreca, Star-Bulletin
On Monday, Gov. Linda Lingle called the handling of several problems at the elections office "shocking and embarrassing." Those problems include the revelation that Cronin was not a registered Hawaii voter until Friday despite a state law listing that as a requirement for the job.
In a three-page news release issued yesterday, Cronin said he had put off registering to vote because of his office tasks.
"This was one of several personal items which remained on my to-do list and that working 6-7 days a week kept getting moved to the next day as I worried about getting a voting machine system secured for the state and to begin election preparations in what is expected to bring to the polls an unusually large number of voters," said Cronin, who started in his job in February.
Lingle said Cronin should not have allowed a last-minute state House candidate, Chrystn Eads, to file her nomination papers after the 4:30 p.m. July 22 deadline. Lingle noted that an elections office official permitted it only after Brian Schatz, state Democratic Party chairman, argued for Eads.
Yesterday Cronin defended his office's action and said he eventually was the one to reject Eads' candidacy.
"While the chief election officer has the authority to deny her filing papers under these circumstances, given the advice provided to staff and Eads' right to make her case by completing the process, she did and filed," Cronin said. The next day, "I reviewed and determined Eads' nomination papers were incomplete," he said.
Before yesterday, Cronin had not commented publicly on the controversies that arose from a flurry of filing on July 22, the last day for candidates to submit nomination papers to run in 2008.
Cronin said the controversies are "casting aspersions on the Office of Elections whose dedicated staff is working extremely hard to prepare for the 2008 elections ... the current atmosphere obliges me to comment before it is necessary under the law."
Cronin defended his failure to register to vote by saying as soon as a reporter called to ask about it, he went down to City Hall to register.
"To experience the attention and anger among many people over my voter registration status surprised me ... especially when our beautiful state has so many more compelling issues like education, health care and transportation, among others," Cronin said.
The state Elections Commission, an independent bipartisan body appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders of the Legislature, meets tomorrow. Cronin said earlier that he thought the issue of his voting status would come up at the meeting.
Cronin is the former assistant general counsel to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. He served as the legal counsel for the Wisconsin state elections board from 1983 to 1988. The Elections Commission hired him in December and he took office in February.
Yesterday, Cronin said that until last week he was serving as the "de facto" election officer.
Cronin said that, because the election law says the chief election officer "shall be a registered voter" instead of "must be," he had time to register.
"I reasonably believed I had some time to register to vote up to the registration deadline in August," he said.