2010 Hawaii County Council election will be first publicly funded vote


POSTED: Sunday, October 25, 2009

QUESTION: Whatever happened to the pilot project to hold Hawaii's first comprehensive publicly funded elections?

ANSWER: Plans are proceeding for the public to finance campaign expenses of some candidates running for Hawaii County Council next year, according to the state Campaign Spending Commission.

The money to fund the election campaigns comes from the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund, which is partially funded by voluntary $2 donations from state income tax returns and also pays for partial public financing of state-wide elections for candidates who agree to abide by campaign spending limits.

Candidates who collect 200 signatures and $5 donations from registered voters in the council district can qualify for public financing.

The amount a candidate will receive varies widely from $37,795 in district 6 to $752 for candidates in district 8. The reason for the differing amounts is because the money for each race is based on the average amount spent by winning candidates in the last two council district elections, minus 10 percent.

Candidates must also agree not to take most other donations for their election campaign.

The commission has published an 18-page guideline for candidates who want public financing to run for the county council next year. It is posted on the commission Web site.

On Nov. 5, the commission will hold a training session for potential candidates in Hilo.

Forms for collecting signatures and $5 donations will be posted on the commission Web site on Jan. 1 and candidates may declare their intent to use public funds beginning Feb. 1.

There is a $300,000 limit on public financing for all candidates so requests for public financing will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition to the $300,000, the state will have to spend about $100,000 for administration, said Barbara Wong, executive director of the commission.

Hawaii County Clerk Ken Goodenow estimated it would cost another $70,000 in county funds to comply with the law, including the requirement to verify signatures.