Chairman and Members:
For the record, I reiterate my previous objections that the meeting agenda be revised to allow public testimony after the report of the Chief Elections Officer (CEO).
My testimony today also repeats my previous position that this Commission should act to replace the Chief Elections Officer and review the election procedures.
I believe that the integrity of Hawaii’s election process is in jeopardy, and like my colleagues, have had many constituents contact me with outrage over the past few weeks. They and I continue to be upset that there has been no accountability for past and present errors in the election process by this CEO. l stand by the Commission and the many volunteers who have provided the public positive service. The CEO’s failure to respond to the public and media have hurt you all. This is not personal, and it is not partisan, but the CEO needs to be removed now. In the private sector, this occurs immediately to protect the integrity of the business and to retain public trust. In government, and our most basic right of voting, there should be an even higher bar to maintain. The public needs reassurance that you will act now.
There was no disciplinary action for the outrageous acts of 2012, when hundreds of voters were disenfranchised because of the lack of distributed ballots, especially in my East Honolulu district, and the wrong ballots delivered to other precincts as well as other documented errors that took place. Incredibly, the Commission actually considered giving the CEO a substantial raise this year after a brief and incomplete internal investigation of election mistakes.
In this year’s August 9 Primary, several issues arose. While we are all very fortunate to have escaped the potential disaster of two Hurricanes, the CEO originally announced there was no Plan B in case devastation had occurred. He insisted the voting would go on. However, as we saw, two precincts in Puna on the Island of Hawaii were unable to vote because of the extent of damage there. I believe other arrangements could have and should have been made.
In clear violation of the State Constitution, vote totals were prematurely released prior to completion of voting in all precincts statewide, as required by law.
A challenge to the rescheduled vote in Puna was decided in the CEO’s favor but Judge Greg Nakamura in his ruling, raised questions of constitutionality, possible future legal action, and reasonableness to the people so devastated by the storm.
The hurried Puna election last Friday was held even though thousands in the area had no electricity, no transportation, no food and some even had a lack of knowledge of the pending election. The extremely low voter turnout confirms these concerns.
Then there were the missing 800 mail-in ballots from Maui. “Discovered” on Wednesday August 13, they were not disclosed until Friday the15th by the CEO, and then added to the Puna totals. Procedures were NOT followed. Error upon error.
Further, voter names were no longer posted at polling places this year. The book of voters was not always readily available in all precincts as it should be. Several poll watchers, and others, requested an updated voter file showing who voted in the Primary Election. The CEO responded that the voter credit process – the process where individual records are marked in the voter database whether the person voted or not in the 2014 Primary and General elections – will not be complete and available until February 2015. After the election. Unacceptable.
Voter turnout continues to decline, cementing Hawaii’s position as worst in the Nation. One reason given is lack of trust in the voting process. I tried unsuccessfully recently to fill a vacancy from Maui on this Commission. Good people did not want to serve with this leadership.
The Legislature passed new legislation making it easier to register and vote allowing for same day voting in two years. Where is the oversight? Where is a paper trail? Where is the confidence that this Administration can handle additional duties?
Mr. Chairman, and members, I implore you to take decisive action today and exert leadership. There are other qualified individuals who can more responsibly address these problems in time before the November 4 General Election.
Mahalo for your time and thoughtful consideration.
Sam Slom, State Senator
Senate Minority Leader 9th District (O’ahu)