Panel meets to get a grip on elections


POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

With less than a year before the primary election, the state Elections Commission will discuss today the troubled preparations for that event and the performance of the state's chief election officer.

Kevin Cronin, the Elections Office chief, has been under fire from legislators for weeks over his handling of election equipment contracting, his leadership skills and for not providing sufficient information about his agency's budget woes.

Legislators have also criticized the commission for inadequately overseeing the Elections Office, which conducts statewide elections.

In response, commission members decided to hold a meeting to get a handle on the situation, said Chairman William Marston.

“;It's time for the commission to come together and decide how they feel about things,”; he said.

Cronin's performance will be evaluated in a closed-door session.

“;It could be a condemnation. It could be support,”; Marston said. “;But I think we need to come to some unified conclusion about it.”;

Cronin said he could not comment about the meeting.

The elections chief had a rough time testifying before the Senate Ways and Means Committee last month. The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa), said afterward that Cronin “;really didn't have a clue.”;

She later sent a video recording of the committee hearing to Elections Commission members.

Marston has been supportive of Cronin, noting that the Elections Office conducted a well-regarded election last year.

For his part, Cronin has said that he was not consulted when Gov. Linda Lingle's aides drafted his office's current budget late last year. In addition, Lingle has subsequently ordered cuts to the agency's allocations because of the state's budget difficulties.

Cronin has been warning for several weeks that his agency has too little funding to adequately run next year's two major elections, the primary on Sept. 18 and the general on Nov. 2. Candidates are running for governor, legislative seats, a U.S. Senate post and two U.S. House seats.

The commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. in Room 423 at the state Capitol.