Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, February 24, 1999

State elections leave
much to be desired

1998 General Election Results

IN the box today is Dwayne Yoshina and his state Office of Elections. Here is a scan of a few headlines to raise your worry level:

New election system raises concerns, Sept. 4; New ballot creates snarls, Sept. 21; Supreme Court orders recount, Jan. 8; Voting check fails to detect fault twice, Feb. 3; Election contract awarded without going to bid, Feb. 5; and State auditor may observe vote recount, Feb. 10.

The downpour of criticism falls upon the shoulders of Yoshina, a self-described bureaucrat, who defends himself by saying he is just trying to do the job assigned.

There is more to the story.

Doubting the competence of government is an American pastime. City, state and federal political leaders have enough trouble with the truth to make even the most partisan loyalist a cynic.

Paranoia and doubt over government conduct ranges from disbelief in America's lunar landings 25 years ago to misgivings about international monetary policy.

A new Star-Bulletin public opinion poll reported a new level of doubt.

It is one thing to figure that the president or a city councilman is fibbing, but to mistrust an election is a serious concern.

According to the survey of registered voters, 48 percent think the election run by Yoshina was either not counted accurately or are not sure.

Asked another way, only 53 percent of Hawaii's voters think their own votes were accurately counted.

And 45 percent of the voters surveyed think the state should recount all the votes.

There are always those who will doubt election returns, but this level of incredulity is such that the elections office should be doing a lot more self-examination.

There is an appointed board deciding this spring whether or not Yoshina should keep his job.

At the same time the Legislature is planning a check of the general election returns, after freshman Sen. Colleen Hanabusa doggedly complained that the election system appeared flawed and a recount was needed to restore confidence.

There have been others in politics who raised doubts about the election returns.

The unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor, Linda Lingle, said she would make reforming the election system one of her top jobs.

She had reason to be concerned because from the first days of her campaign Yoshina's office has tangled with her supporters.

First she was unable to get an adequate number of voter registration forms. Then supporters told her how some voters were sent duplicate absentee ballots and other voters got election-day reminders with the wrong date on them.

THEN there were the problems with the voting system, the scanners, the absentee ballots, the miscounts and the unusually high number of spoiled ballots.

The question actually became one not of conspiracy but of competency.

The election returns were close, and if 2,500 voters had changed their minds, Lingle might be governor today. But the election is history and the results will not change.

What should be called into question, however, is how good a job Hawaii does of running its elections and whether it can be done better.

If McDonald's sold its hamburgers like the state registers voters, counts their ballots and reports the results, this state would be vegetarian.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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