State lawmakers are pushing to reform the state election process after a series of mishaps caused polling places to run out of ballots and open late last year.
House Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson wants to give the chief election officer the power to supervise inexperienced county clerks. Jamae Kawauchi, who was Hawaii County’s clerk, was criticized when 13 of the 40 polling places on Hawaii island opened late for last year’s primary election. She hadn’t run an election before.
Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the state elections office, said the relationship between the state office and the counties has historically been good and that last year was a "glaring exception."
Johanson’s bill also would require the chief election officer to use a checklist when preparing for the election. The proposal is a common-sense way of making sure new elections officials aren’t caught unaware, he said.
The Republican said he expects the bill to be well received in the House.
"You don’t need to go too far to find someone who had an issue in this past election process," said Johanson (R, Fort Shafter-Moanalua Gardens-Aliamanu). "Almost everyone’s constituents experienced some level of frustration."
Rep. Sharon Har is pushing to get rid of the state Office of Elections and the Elections Commission altogether. The Democrat says their responsibilities should be transferred to the lieutenant governor.
Har (D, Kapolei-Makakilo) also introduced a bill that would make the Elections Commission more tightly supervise the chief election officer. The commission currently holds public hearings, investigates violations and is responsible for hiring and firing the chief election officer.