DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Embattled Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin appeared before the state Elections Commission yesterday, turned to the crowd and listened to state Sen. Sam Slom ask questions concerning the printing of the election ballots. On the other side of the table were the election commissioners.
Ballots printed without parties’ OK
But the state's election panel affirms support of chief Kevin Cronin
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Republican and Democratic party leaders lashed out yesterday at state Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin, who gained a vote of confidence from the state Elections Commission.
They blasted Cronin for printing primary election ballots even though officials from the political parties never got a chance to review facsimiles as required by law.
Cronin, meanwhile, apologized to the commission for failing to register to vote until last Friday. State law requires the chief election officer to be a registered voter, and Cronin started the job in February.
Elections Commission Chairman William Marston said, "He has our continued support for his ongoing effort to prepare for an honest, clean election."
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While the state Elections Commission praised Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin, both political parties rapped him.
The most outspoken voice was that of Sen. Sam Slom, who called for Cronin to be fired.
"I don't think anyone has confidence in this Elections Commission and certainly not in this election officer. The first thing that should happen is he should be fired for his incompetence," said Slom (R, Kahala-Hawaii Kai).
Leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties also criticized Cronin because he started printing the estimated 500,000 ballots needed for the Sept. 20 primary election.
Party leaders were not shown the ballots before they were printed, although state law calls for it.
The law reads: "Facsimiles of all ballot layouts prior to printing shall be available for viewing by the candidates and the parties at the office of the chief election officer and the county clerk as soon after the close of filing as they are available."
"This is not good. I am very disappointed," said Flo Kong Kee, Democratic Party executive director, who said in past elections the parties would proofread the ballots to make sure there were no misspellings or other errors.
Cronin told commissioners that it was his decision to start printing so they would be ready to mail overseas and to absentee voters on Aug. 17.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Elections commissioners Harold Nelson, left, Susan Russell and William Marston, along with other members of the state Elections Commission, prepared for a meeting yesterday with Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin at the state Capitol.
"As we speak, the ballots are being printed and all the names have been certified," Cronin said.
When asked whether Rep. Kirk Caldwell's name was included as a candidate for Honolulu City Council, Cronin said he didn't know.
Caldwell has been challenged because of concerns that he did not file his nomination papers properly.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa also criticized Cronin's decision to print the ballots without checking, saying it violated state law.
"No one has the right to unilaterally break the law and make up rules as they go along," said Hanabusa, whose protests of the election in 1998 led to a vote recount.
Cronin appeared before the commission and in a closed-door session and apologized for failing to register to vote until last Friday. State law requires the chief election officer to be a registered voter. Cronin, who started the job in February, earlier said the requirement had slipped his mind.
"We accept his explanation and apology," said William Marston, Elections Commission chairman. "He has our continued support for his ongoing effort to prepare for an honest, clean election."
But Hanabusa said the commission needs more than an apology.
"That is not sufficient for them to simply say, 'We accept your apology.' We need an opinion from the attorney general to make sure this is legal and the contracts he signed are valid," Hanabusa said.
It also was learned yesterday that the Office of Elections has changed the procedure for the primary election ballot.
According to the ballot instructions, voters must first select a political party at the beginning of the ballot and then vote in the section for that particular party. If voters do not vote for the candidates in the party they selected, all their partisan or party votes will not count.
Parties that will be included on the ballot are Constitution, Democratic, Green, Independent, Libertarian and Republican.
Democratic chief Kong Kee said she was concerned that some voters would check "Independent" to express that they were not registered as either Republicans nor Democrats, but then vote in the Democratic primary and have their votes tossed out.