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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Explaining state
election procedures

Question: If blank votes are counted as "no" votes in a referendum, why weren't they counted as votes cast in the mayoral election? It would have affected the percentages.

Answer: They weren't counted in accordance with the state law dealing with vote counts, said City Clerk Genny Wong, who noted that many people also had been calling her office with the same question.

Wong explained how that works: First, the city's election laws require city elections to be conducted "in accordance with the election laws of the state." In a "first special election," any candidate for mayor, prosecuting attorney or council member "receiving a majority of the votes cast for that office shall be deemed elected."

Wong then cites Title 1, Chapter 11-151 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes on "Elections, Generally," which states: "If a contest or question requires a majority of the votes for passage, any blank, spoiled or invalid ballot shall not be tallied for passage or as votes cast except that such ballots shall be counted as votes cast in ratification of a constitutional amendment."

The counting of blank ballots became a major issue in 1996 and ended with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January 1999. At that time, the high court let stand a lower court ruling that allowed blank votes to be counted as "no" votes on proposed amendments to the state constitution.

The 45,000 blank votes became a factor because the tally was 163,869 "yes" and 160,153 "no" for a constitutional convention. A simple majority was needed for the amendment to pass. The proposal failed.

Supporters of a constitutional convention sued in federal court. While a federal judge ordered a new election, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the ruling and the Supreme Court let that ruling stand.

In 1998, Hawaii voters again were asked if they wanted a constitutional convention. That time, the vote was 271,832 to 140,688 against one.

State Elections Web Site


About 6:40 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, driving townbound up Red Hill, I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the third lane. Watching the express lane, I counted at least 30 cars going by where I could see only one person inside. At the Moanalua Gardens area, I saw some cars trying to cut 3 lanes over to get to Salt Lake or Mapunapuna. Is there anybody who watches the express lane, where people constantly abuse using it without fear of paying the $200 fine? -- Jerry


To an angel named Glenn Silva, a supervisor of TheBus who went out of his way to help two senior citizens -- my parents -- find luggage they accidentally left on a bus on the way to the airport.

My dad is hard of hearing and visually impaired in one eye and my mom does not speak English. Traveling from Kaimuki to the airport on the No. 3 bus one evening last month, my mom forgot her luggage on the bus. Their first thought was to go to the nearest police station, which they did after getting off at Smith Street. They could not be helped there and were told to go to the main bus depot. There, Mr. Silva went beyond the call of duty and coordinated the task of finding my mom's luggage.

He tracked down the bus and then made sure it was delivered to my parents at the airport. Mr. Silva, bless you for your compassion and patience with my parents. I thank God that you were working that day. -- Ann Kagehiro, A Grateful Daughter

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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