[ OUR OPINION ]
Voting shouldnt be
all that inconvenient
MOST voters will not be greatly motivated to cast ballots tomorrow in the election of a person to fill out the term of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, to serve about a month in Congress when it will not even be in session. Registered voters without firm convictions -- the so-called undecideds -- will stay home. Those likely to go to the polls will have a special reason to do so -- unusually strong support for a particular candidate or a desire to make some other sort of political statement.
THE ISSUEVoters will chose a person tomorrow to complete the term of Rep. Patsy Mink.
Thirty-eight candidates will be on the ballot for representation of the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the neighbor islands and suburban Oahu. Most have no expectation of being seriously considered. John F. Mink, the late congresswoman's husband, is on the ballot, seeking to "bring the term to closure." His candidacy caused some candidates in the Jan. 4 special election for a full term in the next Congress to defer to Mink in the race for the partial term.
John Mink is not a candidate for the full term. Peculiarly, neither are 13 of the other 37 candidates on tomorrow's ballot. Their motivation for running is a mystery. Why any of these people would want to be a member of Congress for only a month, when it is not in session, is puzzling. Are they looking for a free round-trip ticket to the East Coast, or perhaps a month of congressional salary during an end-of-year vacation from their regular jobs? Do they have regular jobs?
For those running in both special elections, a win in the partial-term race could give a boost to a candidate in the full-term race. It will provide not only momentum for the victor but the ability to cite seniority as an attribute that the other 43 candidates will lack.
While a month is not much, House rules give an edge to those who have served longer -- even in days, weeks or months -- in determining rank within committees, which is where power resides. If the same person wins both special elections in Hawaii, he or she will outrank all new members of the next Congress. The congressional district will benefit.
Still, many registered voters will not want to be bothered on a football Saturday by a relatively inconsequential, single-office election. They should consider that it may not be that much of a bother; voter lines can be relied upon to be short or nonexistent.
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deserves free speech
ABORTION opponents in Hawaii have won an important albeit narrow ruling to allow the airing of advertisements in campaigns leading to special elections in the state's 2nd Congressional District. The ruling is a prelude to more comprehensive challenges of new federal campaign-finance restrictions to be heard in court next week. The new law should not restrict political activism by nonprofit organizations that rely on members' donations.
THE ISSUEA federal judge has ruled that Hawaii Right to Life can air ads naming candidates for the late Patsy Mink's congressional seat.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1986 that lower courts have interpreted to allow tax-exempt groups that take in no more than miniscule amounts of corporate or union money to air political ads in support or opposition to federal candidates. Corporate and union funds, known as soft money, cannot be used for ads directly calling for a candidate's election or defeat.
Hawaii Right to Life, which received only $8,000 in donations last year, sought to take out ads in the campaigns for special elections to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Rep. Patsy Mink. The new law forbids special-interest groups from airing "issue ads" that mention a candidate within 30 days of a primary election and within 60 days of a general election.
The Federal Election Commission proposes to allow only groups that take no corporate or union money to air such radio or television commercials identifying candidates, a more restrictive standard than approved by the high court. Hawaii Right to Life maintained that the restrictions were unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled instead that the organization qualified for an exemption, according to the 1986 Supreme Court ruling, because it had received only $50 in corporate contributions. Kennedy, an appointee of former President Clinton, said the broader constitutionality issue could be put off until "another day."
That day will arrive Wednesday, when a three-judge panel in Washington will consider several lawsuits challenging Federal Election Commission rules. The panel is to hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the new law's leading opponent in Congress, and organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association, which allows corporate contributions of up to $1,000.
The law's ban on soft-money contributions to political parties also is being challenged by the Republican National Committee and both the Democratic and Republican parties in California. The lawsuits are almost certain to be decided by the Supreme Court.
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