Law would extendHawaii should hold its primary election at least 21 days earlier than it normally does in 2004 if it adopts an automatic recount provision for its elections, said Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina.
Yoshina says a recount plan
would require an earlier primary
Deadline to register for voting on
Council vacancy is Thursday
By Pat Omandam
Hawaii traditionally has one of the latest primary dates of any state.
Yoshina told an election reform task force yesterday as it stands, his office barely has enough time to prepare for the general election following the primary election.
The time between the primary and general elections is so short that general election ballots are sent to the printers a day after the primary election, Yoshina said.
Recent legislative efforts to change the primary election date have been unsuccessful. State law requires it be held on the second to the last Saturday of September on even-numbered years, but not less than 45 days before the general election.
"We just cannot do a recount with only 45 days between the primary and general election," said Yoshina, task force chairman. He said at least three more weeks is needed for any possible automatic recount.
A Federal Election Commission comparison shows Hawaii's Sept. 21, 2002, primary election date is the latest in the country except for Louisiana, which does not have a primary for federal offices. The earliest is California, which will hold its primary on March 5.
The temporary task force met for the second time yesterday as it rushes to review and recommend changes to the 2002 state Legislature on how state election ballots are counted and when an automatic recount may be needed.
While there was much discussion about potential problems in Hawaii's elections, Yoshina believes the state has a very secure election challenge process, and does not see a need for a recount law.
Still, he will support one if the task force wants to recommend it to the state Legislature.
"This is a system we have that has served us well. I believe it will continue to serve us well," Yoshina said.
But members Kitty Lagaretta and Jim Hall, both Republican appointees to the task force, challenged those assertions. They want the panel to spend time looking into potential problems with voting machine tabulations, absentee ballots, voter registration rolls and other areas.
At a Dec. 10 meeting, the Hawaii Republican Party urged the task force to, among other things, recommend legislation requiring a manual audit of every election contest decided by a margin of 1 percent or less of the votes cast.
The task force is tentatively proposing a constitutional amendment in next year's general election to allow for an automatic recount of races where the margin of victory was by a yet-to-be-determined percentage. A change in the primary election date is likely to be part of that legislation.
The panel meets again Monday to review draft bills. Members are keenly aware they are running out of time. By law the panel is supposed to submit its recommendations to the Legislature before it convenes on Jan. 16. But the panel had previously informed lawmakers that it will not meet that deadline and will instead submit the recommendations before the Legislature adjourns hoping there will still be time for lawmakers to act.
"Anything that restores credibility to this process and brings voters back into the booth should be done," said member Annelle Amaral, a former state legislator.
Thursday is the deadline for residents of City Council District 5 to register to vote in the Jan. 26 special election.
Deadline to register for
voting on Council vacancy
The election is to fill the remaining year in the four-year term of convicted former Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who resigned just prior to being sentenced to federal prison on charges that he accepted kickbacks from aides for bonuses.
City Clerk Genny Wong said yesterday that since the vacancy occurred earlier this month, only about 30 people have been added to the voter rolls of District 5, an area that includes Manoa, McCully-Moiliili, Tantalus, Makiki, Pawaa, Ala Moana and Kewalo.
About 45,000 people are registered to vote in the district. However, Wong said, only about 36,000 are considered "active." The remaining 8,600, while eligible, did not vote in 2000 and had their voter notification cards undelivered and returned by the Post Office.
Prospective voters must have their registration applications postmarked on or before Thursday to qualify for the special election.
Registration forms are available in the yellow pages of Oahu telephone books and at satellite city halls.
Those who are registered will receive a card informing them about the upcoming election, or a letter if their polling place has changed from two years ago, Wong said.
While the election has not drawn many new voters, 14 political hopefuls filed nomination papers to be placed on the ballot.
City & County of Honolulu