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Digital vote will pick boards

By B.J. Reyes

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:40 a.m. HST, May 01, 2011



Two years after conducting what was said to be the nation's first all-digital and telephone election, the city is again turning to technology to conduct elections for the county's 36 neighborhood boards.

Voting begins tomorrow and is set to run through May 20, with results to be released May 23.

"Neighborhood boards are all about the delivery of government services to the places where people live and raise their families," said Bryan Mick, a spokesman for the city's Neighborhood Commission, which oversees the boards. "If the boards are to accurately represent the needs and desires of their respective areas, it's important that residents participate in the election process.<t$>

"It is truly grass-roots democracy at its most elemental level."

CITIZENS MAY USE TELEPHONES

Votes in neighborhood board elections may be cast online and by telephone beginning after midnight tonight and continuing through 11:59 p.m. May 20. PIN codes are being mailed to eligible voters and should be received by residents tomorrow or soon after.

Instructions on how to vote are included with the PIN mailing and can be found online, along with candidate profiles, at the Neighborhood Commission website: www1.honolulu.gov/nco/index.htm

Voters also may cast their votes over the phone by calling 888-907-6717. The PIN is required.

Walk-in voting stations also will be set up in Ho?nolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays during the election.

An informational Election Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Mayor’s Conference Room at City Hall, Room 301.

Mick said the commission is hoping for a better turnout than the staggeringly low 6 percent in 2009. Voting materials, including personal identification numbers, have been mailed to about 156,000 eligible voters.

"We saw a decline in the voter participation rate when we switched to the digital ballot method," he said. "We are hopeful that between the feedback we got from the 2009 election along with the general population becoming more accustomed to doing all types of things online, we will see a measurable increase in this year's participation rate."

The city has contracted with the same vendor as in 2009, Everyone Counts Inc., a San Diego-based company that has conducted online elections around the world since 1996.

Voting requires a nine-digit PIN number that is matched with a voter's Social Security number. From there, the company uses "military-grade" encryption technology to ensure that votes are securely cast and counted, said Lori Steele, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Everyone Counts.

A telephone option also is available and the city also is setting up computer stations at Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale for those without Internet access.

Online voting has been used in elections elsewhere, but usually in concert with some form of paper ballot.

Four years ago, Honolulu included an online voting procedure in conjunction with standard paper ballots to conduct neighborhood board elections. Of the 44,000 votes cast in those elections, 10 percent — or 4,000 votes — were cast online.

The switch to online voting two years ago was due partly to a reduction in the budget of the Neighborhood Commission of about 30 percent.

This year, the commission expects to spend about $111,000 of its $201,500 budget for the election, Mick said.






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