Elections office mess erodes voter confidence
The elections chief has drawn the criticism of political parties for printing ballots without their review, contrary to state law.
CHIEF Election Officer Kevin Cronin's selective compliance with state laws doesn't inspire confidence that balloting this fall will be conducted properly and without challenges.
In his six months on the job, Cronin hasn't demonstrated a solid ability to manage the agency - or his own employment, for that matter - according to legal requirements.
Though the chairman of the Elections Commission supports Cronin and says he's sure elections will be "honest" and "clean," the public, candidates and political parties could be excused for not sharing that view.
Cronin, a government attorney from Wisconsin, was hired last year and began working in February. As a condition of his employment, he was supposed to be a registered voter in Hawaii. However, he didn't register until July 25, saying he hadn't had the time.
What seems to be a minor detail could become a bigger problem for a number of reasons. These include a dispute over a contract for voting machines in which a company that submitted an $18 million bid protested the award to another company that sought $43 million for the work. Cronin rejected the lower-bidding company's appeal.
In his short tenure, Cronin also has seen chaotic administration of candidate filings and despite decisions pending on the eligibility of two candidates, he had ballots printed for the primary election Sept. 20.
When asked if the name of a City Council candidate, who was disqualified yesterday, was on the ballot, he said he didn't know.
Moreover, Cronin did not allow candidates and political parties to review facsimiles of the ballots before printing, as required by state law. Reviews assure that mistakes are corrected, but Cronin said he wanted the ballots printed in time for absentee voting and for mailing overseas by Aug. 17, far in advance of legal requirements.
That would provide ample time for absentee voters to send in ballots, but it's unclear how Cronin hopes to notify them about candidates whose nominations are invalidated.
To compound the situation, the office changed the procedure for the primary, requiring voters to select a political party first, then vote in the section designated for that party. If voters punch ballots for other parties, all their partisan choices will be nullified. In addition, a number of races are nonpartisan.
A Democratic Party official was concerned that voters might not understand that they don't need be a registered member of any of the six parties listed on the ballot to vote for their candidates.
That is a valid concern, one of many that should disturb voters as they head to the polls.