Convention Edition 2003 Home   Newsletters

Fall 2003

Winter 2003

President's Message (Maile Bay)
To All Leaguers
Proposed Positions for Adoption through Concurrence
On Election of Judges
Elections Office: The Newest & Final (Jean Aoki)
LWV-US Files Amicus Brief
Judicial Independence: Educating Citizens to Protect Equal Justice... (Nancy Connors)
LWV-US Ed Fund Grant
Ugly Side of Redistricting (Jean Aoki)
Practicum on the Hawaii Legislative Process (Grace Furukawa)

Elections Office: The Newest & Final

At its September 4th meeting, the Elections Appointment and Review Panel reappointed Dwayne Yoshina to a new 4-year term as Chief Elections Officer, on a 3-2 vote. The two who voted against the reappointment explained that months ago, a motion had been passed to open the application to all interested parties and to place advertisements in the local papers, and that, to date, this had not been done. Mr. Ray Pun, the chair of the panel explained that the legislature had not appropriated any funds for the panel, and while the Lieutenant Governor's office had at first agreed to pay for the advertisements, it later withdrew that offer. Mr. Yoshina's term had ended on January 30, but he was held over until either he or a new Chief Elections Officer could be appointed. While no formal action was taken to seek the written opinion of the Attorney General's Office at this meeting, the two will pursue the opinion on the legality of the vote to reappoint Mr. Yoshina. That day's meeting was recessed for continuation on September 25th.

Bob Rees testified in strong support of the reappointment of Yoshina. He felt that some on the panel were being less than impartial and objective in their evaluation of Mr. Yoshina. I offered League testimony with part comments and suggested amendments to the 2nd draft of their findings and recommendations based on the performance evaluation of the Chief Elections Officer for the 2001-2002 biennium. League had helped tally and summarize responses to a survey questionnaire distributed widely to people who have been involved in the elections process as poll workers or observers, and also to certain government officials.

The second half of my testimony was devoted to urging that no time be wasted in appointing a Chief Elections Officer. The Primary Election is a year away, and there remains much work to be done on implementation plans to meet the objectives of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in order to qualify for welcome federal dollars, and on implementing the plans for the 2004 Elections which will include advanced training of the professional staff, improved training of the volunteer polling site and counting center workers, upgrading of voting machines, providing for access to voting for the disabled community, and the education of voters on the processes of registration and voting and of their rights as voters. With state revenues down for a decade, the education of voters has received little financial support from the legislature.

It is imperative that the state have a Chief Elections Officer in place who can steam ahead knowing that he/she will be able to implement the plans he/she helps put in place. As I noted in my testimony, it is unfair to Mr. Yoshina, to the public, and to whomever will be appointed, be it Mr. Yoshina or someone else, to prolong this uncertainty. We simply do not have the luxury of time to delay this process-not if we expect to hold the CEO accountable for the integrity and faultless execution of the next election, and for helping Hawaii meet all the requirements of HA VA.

The Help America Vote Act
HAVA is a complicated piece of legislation, which if implemented properly, can correct many of the problems that states have experienced in the past from disenfranchised voters to faulty or poorly maintained voting equipment which leads to votes that are not properly counted. While federal funding has fallen short of the original intent, it is money that goes into a special elections account in each state to be expended over a number of years to implement the requirements of HAVA. States would still be required to maintain their normal funding of elections from their own general funds.

While the basic requirements are spelled out by HAVA, it is the details of our implementation plan that will either help meet or defeat HAVA's objectives. For example, we could make the voter identification requirements so restrictive that it would discourage or even intimidate our newer naturalized citizens and the severely economically disadvantaged citizens from voting. Much thought has to be given to every detail and all consequences for each rule carefully considered.

Hawaii, because of our centralized electoral system with our statewide data base of registered voters, and our replacement of the old punch card system with the optical scan machines in 1998, has certain advantages over other states in the implementation of HAVA. However, many states have finalized their implementation plans already or are in the process of holding public hearings on the draft plans. We have no time to waste, and for work to proceed swiftly, we need to have a Chief Elections Officer in place now _ who is given the assurance that he/ she will be able to implement the needed improvements planned for the 2004 Elections.

At the September 25th meeting, Mr. Yoshina was confirmed for a 4-year term as Chief Elections Officer.

Jean Aoki

Convention Edition 2003 Home   Newsletters Winter 2003