They tried during six different meetings, but state lawmakers last month could not reach an agreement on a bill that would have allowed Hawaii residents to register to vote on election day. House Bill 321 was introduced to increase access to voting. Current state law requires that a voter register 30 days before an election. In testimony submitted on the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union said in the 2012 election, 62% of Hawaii’s registered voters went to the polls – the lowest voter turnout in the nation.
Articles about voting issues in Hawaii.
Hundreds of Hawaii voters were likely disenfranchised in the 2012 elections after dozens of polling places ran out of ballots due to mismanagement and mishaps statewide. This is the same state that recorded the nation’s lowest voter turnout with a lousy 44 percent of registered voters bothering to elect their leaders. Then there was the debate over whether some candidates actually belonged to the political party they claimed or lived in the district they wanted to represent. Not to mention accusations of voter intimidation with candidates watching as voters filled out absentee ballots at home. And so Hawaii entered 2013 amid lawsuits, investigations and a blitz of bills to fix the flaws. What’s happened? Pretty much nothing. This year’s legislative session wrapped up May 2 with only one significant election-reform bill passing.
Residents who procrastinate and fail to register to vote by the deadline would still be able to cast ballots on election day under a bill approved by the state House of Representatives. House Bill 321, which has been referred to several Senate committees, would permit residents to register at the same time they went in to vote. Current state law requires that voters register 30 days before the election. The change to allow election-day registration has been proposed as a way of increasing voting participation, lawmakers say.
Political candidates will shake hands, kiss keiki and sign-wave like crazy during election season — anything to get elected. Under proposed legislation, one thing they would not be allowed to do is touch a voter’s ballot. Senate Bill 827 would prohibit candidates from physically handling or possessing absentee ballots and voter registration forms. It seems to be another piece of legislation related to allegations of voter intimidation in the 2012 primary. SB 827 brings to mind House Bill 1027, which aims to ensure the integrity of absentee ballots. That measure would require that absentee ballots include information about election and voter fraud, and prohibit employers, unions and candidates “or their agents” from assisting voters in completing absentee ballots.
What’s in a name? Apparently some advantage, according to a bill under consideration at the state Legislature. House Bill 32 would change state law dictating the way candidates’ names are placed on election ballots. They currently are listed alphabetically (with a rare exception; more on that later), but the bill would change that. The new method would have the state’s chief election officer select a letter of the alphabet by lot, and candidates with last names beginning with that letter would be listed first, followed by those with letters that follow alphabetically. The reason for the proposed change is “to ensure fairness in the election process,” according to a report from the House Committee on Judiciary which approved the measure last week. The theory is that some people might just pick the first name listed on the ballot in a race. That is the conventional wisdom, according to a study done by three California researchers on the “ballot-order effect.”
The state Elections Commission announced Friday that Chief Election Officer Scott Nago will keep his job and face no discipline after ballot shortages that affected 17 percent of Oahu’s polling places during the Nov. 6 election. Commissioners emerged from an hour and a half closed-door executive session at midday Friday and said would retain his job, in spite of calls by some people for him to be fired. “We felt there was a series of mistakes certainly, but none of them rose to the level where he would be dismissed because of those. And there’s some things that have to be fixed. And they will be,” said William Marston, chairman of the commission.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) chose Hawaii Lieutenant Gov. Brian Schatz (D) to fill the seat left open by the death of longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), deciding against Inouye’s deathbed wish that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) succeed him. The move comes as a surprise — most expected Abercrombie to honor Inouye’s wish, delivered in a letter to the governor on the day of his death earlier this month. Abercrombie chose Schatz over Hanabusa and former congressional candidate Esther Kia’aina (D), the options presented to him by the state Democratic committee.
Voters can expect a mad scramble to replace U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa if she is appointed to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. About half a dozen names are already being floated as potential candidates for the District 1 Congressional seat if Hanabusa vacates her house post, political analysts say. ”This is a sprint. It’s not a long distance run. It’s going to be a short election span,” said Hawaii Pacific University Professor John Hart. ”So the person who can put the boots on the ground and the checks in the mail … those are the people who can compete in this situation.”
The state Elections Commission Tuesday decided to appoint a subcommittee to investigate ballot problems on Oahu during the Nov. 6 election, following testimony from some members of the public who called for Chief Election Officer Scott Nago to be fired. The panel did not take steps to punish or terminate Nago after meeting for more than an hour behind closed doors to talk about his response to the problems on Election Day. Nago told the commission said the state had enough reserve ballots but his staff was not able to deliver them to 17 percent of Oahu’s polling places during the general election, causing them to run out of ballots, resulting in long lines and delays.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie says his administration will propose voting entirely by mail in the wake of snafus during both the Primary and General Elections this year. The Attorney General’s Office will also be launching an investigation into the State Office of Elections, in addition to the Elections Commission asking its own questions. From the late-opening Big Island polling places in the primary to the ballot shortages in the General Election, many voters say they’re fed up with how Hawaii elections are run. ”My first thought when it happened was am I really in the USA?,” voter Michelle Bartell said.