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StarBulletin.com

Elections office has no funds for 2010 voting


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POSTED: Saturday, July 18, 2009

The state Office of Elections has no money to plan or prepare for the 2010 elections, according to chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin.

In a letter sent last week to Gov. Linda Lingle and legislative leaders, Cronin outlined his office's problems, which stem from a series of budget cuts mandated by the governor.

“;The Office of Elections has virtually no funds at this time to continue preparations for the 2010 elections based on the latest information,”; Cronin wrote on July 7.

Since then, Cronin said he has not heard from Lingle.

There was no immediate comment from the Governor's Office.

After paying for salaries and contracts, the office had $166,209 left, but $113,346 was taken in cuts that reflected the money that would have been saved by state furloughs, Cronin explained. That remaining balance of $52,863 was reduced when the administration took money that would have gone to reimburse the counties for 2008 election work.

“;The net operation funds remaining is now reduced to $14,884,”; Cronin wrote.

“;This amount is enough to pay for electricity, water and other building maintenance that runs about $7,000 a month for two months—July and August.”;

Cronin wrote, “;In short, as much as we would like to say we'll be OK, I cannot say so now. I am very concerned.”;

William Marston, chairman of the state Elections Commission, which meets next week, said the financial problems means “;something will have to give.”;

“;We just don't have the dollars we had. The election next year probably won't be as smoothly run. Something is going to have to give,”; Marston said.

“;This is a serious problem. The election won't be held in the same manner. It may be painful,”; he said, adding, “;You tell me where to find more money.”;

The Elections Office has already floated closing 66 of the 339 polling places for next year's election to save money.

When that proposal was offered last month, the Elections Office noted that if voters vote on election day instead by absentee mail, they should expect “;lines of voters longer than voters are accustomed to and overwhelmed election officials who might not be prepared for the possible increased numbers.”;

The new budget cuts are more of a concern to Cronin because the lack of money means the office “;is functionally unable to purchase and acquire the materials needed to prepare now for the 2010 elections.”;

The office needs three more staff positions and an additional 18 seasonal workers, Cronin wrote to Lingle and the legislators.

All the preparation builds the foundation for an election held without problems, Cronin said.

The failure to properly prepare “;increases the risk to the elections,”; Cronin warned.

“;If that is what others want, then so be it,”; he said.