Nago named permanent chief election officer


POSTED: Thursday, February 18, 2010

The state Office of Elections has a new permanent chief election officer, but that was the only question resolved about the upcoming 2010 election season.

The Elections Commission, which is charged with hiring the chief election officer, named Scott Nago, a 12-year veteran of the office.

Nago, 36, had been serving as interim chief after the resignation of Kevin Cronin. Cronin's performance had been criticized by all four county clerks.

Nago told the commission yesterday that his office has enough money to operate through the end of the fiscal year in June, but the next year's budget is still dependent on the Legislature giving the office the money to function.

Officials say a special election to fill the vacancy if U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie resigns from Congress, as expected, will be the first state-run all mail-in ballot election. The election, Nago estimates, should cost about $1 million, which the Office of Elections has available, but the timing is uncertain.

; If Abercrombie resigns on Feb. 28, May 1 would be the earliest the election could be held, according to state law. But Nago and Honolulu City Clerk Bernice Mau, who ran two council mail-in ballot elections last years, said it would take longer to prepare.

“;Maybe by the middle of May or in early June,”; Mau told the commission.

State law and the state Constitution give the power to set elections to the election officer. Nago said he would wait until more is known about the special election before setting a date for the vote.

But Nago can't delay the special election because yesterday the attorney general issued an opinion that federal and state law require that it be held as soon as practicable after Abercrombie's resignation.

Three major candidates—state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, former U.S. Rep. Ed Case and City Councilman Charles Djou—have said they would run for the six-month congressional term. They are also running for the 2011-12 congressional term.