[ OUR OPINION ]
Hawaii leads way
with election rules
THE initially troublesome voting equipment Hawaii began using four years ago puts the state in a good position to comply more easily with new national requirements for elections. Refining local procedures to meet the nationwide standards will be less cumbersome for Hawaii, but will still involve adjustments that may prove costly.
Congress approves a new law intended to avoid repetition of Florida's problems with the 2000 presidential election.
Legislation approved by Congress last week authorizes $3.9 billion in federal aid to help states improve their voting systems. However, as with many federal mandates, it remains unclear how much money will actually be provided. If the intent is to avoid another debacle like the one for the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress must give cash-strapped state governments the resources they will need. As matters now stand, states may have to compete for federal money and those with the largest electoral muscle will likely prevail.
The bill, which President Bush says he will sign, is supposed to help states upgrade their election systems by replacing punch-card and lever equipment, training poll workers, establishing statewide voter lists and making polling places more accessible to the disabled. The bill requires that voters be allowed to check their ballots and correct errors before ballots are cast. It also orders provisional balloting, which allows a person not listed on registration rolls to submit a ballot that would be counted after verification of eligibility.
Hawaii appears to have a leg up in a number of these areas. In 1998, the state installed an optical scanning system to replace the old punch-card operation. The system initially caused a lot of headaches. Malfunctions forced a recount of more than 412,000 ballots that year. Since then, glitches have been fewer and it appears most of the bugs have been fixed. The system works to reject a ballot immediately if a voter has filled it out improperly, allowing the voter to recast the ballot. Hawaii already has statewide voter lists.
Provisional balloting may present a difficulty. At present, when people are not listed as registered at a particular polling place, elections officials check their addresses and direct them to the correct location. However, if their names do not show up on any list and they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot, final election results may be delayed while their eligibility is investigated. In close races, these ballots may affect outcomes.
At present, disabled voters in Hawaii have options. They may cast absentee ballots, bring someone into the voting booth to help them or even complete their ballots in their cars with proper supervision. If the new law requires special equipment at polling places the state will have to comply, but officials hope for some flexibility because the present system is often more convenient for the disabled.
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Prison term is apt
for Lindseys crime
LOKELANI Lindsey's defiance through the very end of her stormy years as Bishop Estate trustee has collapsed as she prepares to spend six months in federal prison. While her conviction is for her involvement in a scheme that was separate from her duties as trustee, her misconduct was indicative of the avarice that led to the upheaval of the estate, now called Kamehameha Schools.
The former Bishop Estate trustee has been sentenced to prison in an unrelated case.
When Lindsey dropped her battle to preserve her trusteeship on the Bishop Estate board three years ago, she characterized the Internal Revenue Service as "probably the most powerful group of bureaucrats in the nation." It is only fitting that the IRS conducted the subsequent investigation finding that Lindsey, while being paid as much as $1 million a year as trustee, helped her sister hide stock earnings from tax collectors and accepted $35,000 in return.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra scolded Lindsey for her "misguided sense of greed and arrogance," sentencing her to prison and ordering her to pay $35,000 in restitution. Her sister, Marlene Lindsey, pleaded guilty earlier to tax fraud and received an identical prison term.
Lindsey's heavy-handed methods as the Bishop Estate board's point person in directing the schools earned her the wrath of school officials, children and parents, triggering a three-year battle that toppled the board. A state probate judge removed Lindsey from her trusteeship after finding that she had misused and mismanaged trust property and micromanaged the trust's educational programs.
"Rightly or wrongly, she became the poster lady of the complaints and abuses that were being visited on the children," says Jan Dill, president of Na Pua a Ke Alii Pauahi Inc., a 700-member Kamehameha Schools parent and alumni group.
Although the wrongdoing for which Lindsey was convicted did not involve trust funds, her attorney complains that her notoriety as a former trustee resulted in a stiffer sentence. He may be right. Federal guidelines sharply limit a judge's latitude in sentencing, but the utmost use of that flexibility is sometimes needed to achieve justice and set an example for others who accept positions of public trust.
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