Report Title:

Election Reform

Description:

Provides for posting of unofficial election results immediately after close of polling place; provides for recount and audit if an election is won by one percent or less; removes requirement that precinct chair be of the same party as the governor.

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

264

TWENTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2001

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 


 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

RELATING TO ELECTIONS.

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

SECTION 1. The legislature finds that voters place less faith in our form of democratic elections than in years past. Incidents in years past and present served to destroy people's faith in our electoral system, and consequently, our system of government. A government cannot effectively lead or serve its citizens without legitimacy, and flaws and unfairness in a government's electoral system, whether perceived or real, serve to undermine the legitimacy of a government. The purpose of this bill is to correct flaws within Hawaii's electoral system by providing for the posting of unofficial election results immediately after the close of polling places, for recounting and auditing an election race won by one percent or less, and for the removal of the requirement that the precinct chair be of the same party as the governor.

Improvements in technology have increased the efficiency of

tabulating votes. Currently, unofficial precinct results can be ascertained nearly immediately after the closing of the polling precinct. However, these results are not published in any manner and the public has to wait for official counts disseminated from the Office of Elections through the news media. In this age of high-speed information, such delay is unacceptable. There is no legitimate reason why unofficial results should not be posted at polling precincts after the precinct is closed. Posting tabulations provides an immediate, albeit unofficial, response to the voters of a district regarding collective choices in an election. Posting tabulations also provides a check and balance against electoral tampering, as precincts would roughly know the precinct's results and official results deviating greatly would come under scrutiny.

However, posting cannot erase the possibility of close elections. Indeed, the nature of a fair and open democracy with the free flow of ideas and positions on issues result in close elections. Neither machines nor people are perfect. There can be any number of reasons for a miscounted vote, whether counted by machine or person. Election contests are expensive and inefficient when compared to the option of an automatic recount. Recent examples bear this out. An automatic recount would provide opportunities to find mistakes in vote counting, and possibly settle an election race without resorting to inefficient means.

Finally, although a process may be fair, perceptions of unfairness may still destroy the legitimacy of an election. Nothing contributes to the perception of unfairness of elections more than the situation where a party in power controls an election through legislation. To require election chairpersons to be of the same political party as the governor appears unfair, even if the people chosen are of the soundest integrity and impartiality.

SECTION 2. Chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"11- Posting of unofficial results after the close of polling place. After the closing of a precinct polling place, and prior to the removal of ballots from a counting machine, the precinct official shall print the tabulation of votes from that precinct polling place. The precinct official shall immediately post these results in the same location where precinct officials post the list of registered voters in the precinct. Additionally, the precinct official shall also immediately post alongside the original printed tabulation the results using text and numerals at least one inch in height."

SECTION 3. Chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"11- Recount and audit of votes cast for close contests. (a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, if, within three days after an election, the chief election officer determines that the plurality of an elected candidate for an office over the vote for a defeated candidate receiving the next highest number of votes was less than a vote equivalent to one per cent of the total number of votes cast for the office, excluding spoiled, over or under counts, and blank ballots, the chief election officer shall order a manual recount and audit of votes for that contest, to be conducted within ten working days. Before the recount is made, the chief election officer shall give notice in writing to the two leading candidates in that contest of the time and place where that recount is to be made. The two leading candidates in that contest may send two representatives each to be present at that recount. At the completion of the recount, the chief election officer shall announce the officer's findings within twenty-four hours. The chief election officer may adopt rules under chapter 91 to implement this section in a fair, uniform, and impartial manner. For purposes of this section, "total number of votes cast" means in the case of multiple openings for the same office, the total number of electors checked as having voted in the State, district, or political subdivision, as the case may be.

(b) Nothing in this section shall preclude the right to judicial proceedings under this chapter.

SECTION 4. Section 11-72, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:

"(b) In assigning the precinct officials the following criteria shall be followed:

(1) The precinct officials shall be registered voters of the precinct in which they serve; but if qualified persons in the precinct or representative district are not readily available to serve, they may be chosen from without the precinct or representative district, or if qualified persons either in or without the precinct or representative district are not available to serve, the chief election officer may designate precinct officials who are not registered voters if the persons so designated are otherwise qualified and shall have attained the age of sixteen years on or before June 30, of the year of the election in which they are appointed to work.

(2) The chief election officer may designate more precinct officials than are needed in order to create a pool of qualified precinct officials who may be assigned to fill vacancies or to perform such duties as needed in any precinct.

(3) No parent, spouse, child, or sibling of a candidate shall be eligible to serve as a precinct official in any precinct in which votes may be cast for the candidate; nor shall any candidate for any elective office be eligible to serve as a precinct official in the same election in which the person is a candidate. No candidate who failed to be nominated in the primary or special primary election shall be eligible to serve as a precinct official in the general election next following.

(4) The chairperson of the precinct officials shall be [of the same party as the governor and shall be] the first named precinct official on the list prepared by the chief election officer. The remainder of the precinct officials shall be apportioned as follows:

(A) The total votes cast, except those cast for nonpartisan candidates, for all of the following offices which were on the ballot in the next preceding general election shall be divided into the total votes cast for all the candidates of each party for such offices: president and vice-president, United States senator, United States representative, governor and lieutenant governor, state senator, and state representative.

(B) In the event that a party's proportion of votes cast exceeds fifty per cent, its share shall be one-half of the precinct officials. The remaining one-half shall be divided among the remaining parties in proportion to their respective total of votes cast for the offices set forth in subparagraph (A).

(C) In the case of the above division resulting in parties having fractional positions a whole position shall go to the party with the larger number of votes cast.

(D) Newly qualified parties may be assigned up to ten per cent of the total positions available at the discretion of the chief election officer."

SECTION 5. Section 11-155, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"11-155 Certification of results of election. On receipt of certified tabulations from the election officials concerned, the chief election officer or county clerk in county elections shall compile, certify, and release the election results after the expiration of the time for bringing an election contest [.]; provided that an election won by a narrow margin of one percent or less of the votes cast in the election in question shall not be certified until after a manual recount and audit is completed pursuant to 11- . The certification shall be based on a comparison and reconciliation of the following:

(1) The results of the canvass of ballots conducted pursuant to chapter 16;

(2) The audit of pollbooks (and related record books) and resultant overage and underage report;

(3) The audit results of the manual audit team;

(4) The results of the absentee ballot reconciliation report compiled by the clerks; and

(5) All logs, tally sheets, and other documents generated during the election and in the canvass of the election results.

A certificate of election or a certificate of results declaring the results of the election as of election day shall be issued pursuant to section 11-156; provided that in the event of an overage or underage, a list of all precincts in which an overage or underage occurred shall be attached to the certificate. The number of candidates to be elected receiving the highest number of votes in any election district shall be declared to be elected. Unless otherwise provided, the term of office shall begin or end as of the close of polls on election day. The position on the question receiving the appropriate majority of the votes cast shall be reflected in a certificate of results issued pursuant to section 11-156."

SECTION 6. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 7. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

 

 

INTRODUCED BY:

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