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League of Women Voters blasts candidate's call for photos of marked ballots

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 11:14 a.m. HST, Jul 25, 2014

The congressional campaign for state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim will no longer send emails or have a picture on its Facebook page asking voters to send in pictures of their absentee ballots filled out for their candidate, after criticism was raised by the League of Women Voters of Hawaii.

State Rep. Mark Takai had a similar posting on his Facebook page Thursday, but the League of Women Voters did not make note of it. The group singled out Kim's camp in a news release because of the mass email sent to supporters.

"Sure it's pretty exciting to follow everything your friends are doing, but just a reminder that sharing your vote this way means your employer or union could see it, for example," the group said in a news release. "We hope all voters realize this and do not feel intimidated by receiving a 'push' to their email address urging them to disclose their vote."

The post on Takai's Facebook page was removed late Thursday.

League President Ann Shaver said the email blast from Kim's campaign was brought to their attention by a citizen.

"I think this isn't just saying, 'Hey, I like Ike,' I think this is, 'Hey, proof I'm on your side, I'm doing what you ask,'" Shaver said.

Both are running for the 1st Congressional District seat representing urban Oahu. Others in the race include state Sen. Will Espero, City Councilmen Ikaika Anderson, Stanley Chang and Joey Manahan and human rights activist Kathryn Xian.

Kim's blast email message featured an image of an absentee ballot with the bubble marked in for Kim.

"Cast your vote for Donna Mercado Kim for Congress using the absentee ballot today," the message stated. "Spread the word to your friends and family so they can cast their vote for Donna!

"Once you cast your vote for Donna, take a photo and upload it on Facebook and Twitter!"

In an emailed response, the Kim campaign said it understands the concern and it would no longer make the request.

"The targeted email blast was sent out to 468 supporters of Sen. Donna Mercado Kim by her campaign staff with the intent to encourage them to vote absentee," the statement said. "Kim was not aware it specifically asked them to post their ballot on Facebook and Twitter. We have since deleted the email blast.

"The intent was not to 'intimidate' anyone to disclose their vote on social media."

Takai's Facebook page also featured an image of a ballot marked in for Takai.

"Remember to fill out and send your absentee ballots," the post states. "Join our team collage by sending a pic of you and your ballot."The Takai campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

After learning of the League's protest, Takai campaign spokesman Alex Hetherington said the campaign felt the best course of action was to remove the post.

Shaver said the League discourages any posting of a marked ballot, regardless of how the request is presented.

"A secret ballot is one of the hearts of our democracy," Shaver said. "It's one thing to ask people, 'Sign on if you like Ike,' it's another thing to say, 'Send us picture proof that you like Ike enough that you're marking your ballot in his favor.

"I think it's inappropriate, whoever does it. It's against the American way."

Of the other candidates, only Espero and Anderson had images of marked ballots on their Facebook pages Thursday, but neither asked voters to send in or post similar photos.

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