By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The state should establish a “mechanism” to monitor the readiness of the counties to conduct an election and to intervene if necessary, the Hawaii County Council declared on Thursday.
By a 9-0 vote, the council approved a resolution supporting the Hawaii State Association of Counties’ inclusion of a law to that effect in its 2013 legislative package.
The passage of the nonbinding resolution does not guarantee that HSAC will include the proposal in its legislative package. It does not guarantee that the idea will become law, nor will it have any effect on the Nov. 6 general election. But the unanimous vote is the first attempt by the County Council to support potential legislation for the state to take over elections in the event that something goes awry.
State law says that in an election involving candidates for both state and county offices, the state is responsible for providing precinct officials, ballot boxes, voting booths, telephones, ballot transport containers and other things.
Each county is responsible for voter registration, maintaining voting machines, storage of voting devices and employees assigned to cover absentee polling place functions, among other things.
The state and the county split the cost of several other items, including polling place supplies, ballot preparation and packing, and when the costs are shared the chief election officer determines whether the state or the county bears responsibility.
County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi, who according to the County Charter is responsible for running elections in Hawaii County, declined to state her position on the resolution. Kawauchi told Councilwoman Brenda Ford that it is not the clerk’s role to take a side in political issues. The state Elections Office earlier this week declined to comment on the resolution.
The resolution, introduced by Councilman Angel Pilago, is silent on how the chief election officer and the Elections Commission should “monitor” the readiness of counties to conduct an election. It also does not specify what would be the trigger for the state to intervene in an election and how that would happen.
But there’s no doubt that the resolution is aimed at the county Office of Elections, which Kawauchi oversees, where “errors compounded by errors,” as elections chief Scott Nago once said, resulted in the governor declaring an emergency and keeping the polls open for an unprecedented 90 minutes longer than normal during the Aug. 11 primary election. Pilago’s resolution says the election “damaged the public’s confidence in the electoral process.”
That wasn’t the only resolution the council forwarded to HSAC. By a 9-0 vote, lawmakers requested the association include in its 2013 legislative package a proposal requiring consumers to be notified that a food product or a raw agricultural commodity contains genetically engineered material.
Councilman Pete Hoffmann, who introduced the resolution, stressed that he’s not opposed to food made from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. At the same time, he can’t fathom a reason why transgenic food products aren’t labeled for the consumer’s benefit.
The resolution states that “the effects of consuming genetically engineered foods are unclear, and without mandatory labeling requirements of those foods, consumers may unknowingly be putting their health at risk.”
“I do believe in the freedom of choice,” Ford said. “I think we should do this. I think it’s important that we all support this.”
Several bills were introduced in the state Legislature last year mandating the labeling of transgenic foods, but none of them passed into law.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.