vote recount has clear
sailing in House
The state auditor and inde-
pendent experts would
oversee the full
By Craig Gima
The state House today was expected to debate and pass a Senate resolution calling for a full electronic recount of the 1998 general election with oversight from state auditor Marion Higa and independent election experts.
"Public sentiment is to restore the integrity of the Elections Office and the report has to be done by the end of March so we're just trying to agree with the Senate that a review will take place," said House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo).
"This is to give (chief election officer) Dwayne (Yoshina) the opportunity now to go ahead and do it," he added.
Also today, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on bills to change the election law to allow an automatic recount of ballots in close races, and to require the Elections Appointment Panel to provide oversight of elections and the chief election officer.
Common Cause Hawaii submitted testimony supporting the oversight bill because it would keep the Elections Office independent of elected officials. Executive Director Larry Meacham said he believes a review of the chief election officer's performance will find "good accomplishments".
Chief election officer Yoshina, meanwhile, supported a bill that would allow the Circuit Court to order a recount if the vote gap between a winning and losing candidate was one-eighth of 1 percent or less in races involving at least one-third of the state's voters, and in other races, one-fourth of 1 percent or less.
"While we are confident about the integrity of the ballot-counting program, we feel that the best way to put these questions and concerns to rest is to allow a recount of ballots in specified instances," Yoshina testified today.
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supported another bill that would allow for automatic recount by hand if the difference between two opponents was less than 1 percent.
"An automatic recount would allay all suspicions and bring closure and acceptance of the results without candidates having to resort to the courts for relief," testified Jean Aoki, the league's president.
However, Aoki noted that in races where large numbers of votes are cast, it may be more desirable to recount the ballots using machines.
Under present law, recounts are allowed only if a candidate can prove to the Hawaii Supreme Court that fraud or a mistake in the election may have affected the results.
The bills and the resolution asking for a recount of last year's general election were prompted by a precinct machine malfunction in Waianae that led to 150 votes being miscounted in a House race. The mistake was not discovered until after a court challenge and six other machines were found to have malfunctioned in other precincts.
The resolution seeking the recount passed the Senate unanimously yesterday. But some senators also raised concerns that more than just a recount is needed to restore the public's faith.
"If we are to restore voter confidence in the elections, then it is not sufficient that we pass just a resolution," said Sen. Randy Iwase (D, Mililani).