for vote recount
Lawmakers will discuss aBy Susan Kreifels
possible ballot audit at a
hearing on Monday
Senators have determined that a manual recount of ballots cast in the November election would be illegal because it was not called within 20 days of the election, Sen. Avery Chumbley said today.
The Senate may call for an audit of ballots, said Chumbley, who is co-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But he didn't want to give details of a possible audit, which senators will discuss at a hearing Monday.
Chumbley said the law allows for recounts if the Supreme Court finds cause, but that must be done within 20 days of an election.
"It's something we've been looking at," Chumbley said. "It's becoming clearer and clearer what the statutes will allow us to do.
"We're going in the direction of what is an acceptable level of audit, and how extensive it can be without being a recount. The election agency has to be involved. Beyond that, it's open for some levels of interpretation through the statute."
The call for an audit came as no surprise to Gov. Ben Cayetano, according to his spokeswoman, Kathleen Racuya-Markrich.
Cayetano had already asked for an informal opinion from the state attorney general, who said the law would not allow for a recount at this point.
Cayetano sent that opinion to the Senate on Thursday, she said.
The chief election officer has the authority to review the count "where machines have malfunctioned," Racuya-Markrich said today, referring to the governor's understanding of the law.
"The governor said earlier that if there was going to be a full recount, he wanted it to be the primary and the general election, but that he personally didn't see the need for a total recount," Racuya-Markrich said.
Senate President Norman Mizuguchi said today that he didn't want to comment before Monday's hearing. "The decision will be made at that time," Mizuguchi said. "My intent is to restore public confidence and bring a closure to the issue."
Asked whether an audit would restore that confidence, Mizuguchi said he would not comment further until the hearing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear a Senate resolution on Monday that asks for a manual recount of all the ballots cast in the Nov. 3 general election.
The resolution follows the discovery that seven vote-counting machines malfunctioned on election night.
Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina prefers to call any examination of the election a "review" rather than an "audit," because it would go beyond looking merely at vote tallies.
A review would look at the entire election to see what mistakes, if any, were made -- and what can be done to prevent future problems.
Yoshina said he has the authority to oversee a review but will recommend that a third party handle the process.
Election Systems & Software, the Nebraska company that provided the machines, has already suggested a third party so it won't look like "the fox guarding the hen house," Yoshina said.
While Yoshina agrees with the spirit of the resolution for a recount, he feels the election results are sound.
No problems were discovered in the 327 other precincts, and manual audits conducted election night uncovered no problems.
Problems uncovered in the seven precincts didn't change any election results, he said.
"Speaking from the facts, we have enough right now to show the election is OK," Yoshina said today.
"(But) I believe I have the responsibility to allay these concerns."
The attorney general's office has told Yoshina he has the authority to conduct reviews, audits or recounts.
But Yoshina did not want to comment on whether he also had the right to decide whether they should be conducted or whether that was up to legislators.
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