HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

612

TWENTY-EIGHTH LEGISLATURE, 2015

 

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 in 2014, the office of elections postponed voting for two precincts in the Puna district of Hawaii island that did not open on the day of the primary election because of nearby damage caused by Tropical Storm Iselle. The postponement of voting by nearly a week for the affected precincts demonstrated the unique challenges that may arise when partial election results are released to the public for ballot contests that are still undetermined pending the results of postponed voting. For example, the two leading candidates in the Democratic primary race for the United States Senate were separated by only 1,635 votes, with an estimated 6,821 voters eligible to participate in the postponed vote. This situation prompted concerns that prior knowledge of the status of ongoing election contests heading into the postponed vote could skew election results by changing voter behavior or providing candidates and other interested parties with the unusual advantage of focusing campaign efforts on specific groups of swing voters.

The legislature further finds that the release of partial election results prior to the completion of postponed balloting undermines the current general policy of prohibiting the disclosure of voting results prior to the closing of the polls, as set forth in section 11-152(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The purpose of this Act is to promote fairness in the conduct of postponed elections, by prohibiting the public disclosure of voting results from every precinct for any ballot contest or question affected by the postponement, until the closing of the polls for the postponed election.

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

"11-    Postponed elections; disclosure of voting results. Whenever the conduct of an election within any precinct has been postponed:

(1) By the chief election officer or county clerk because of a natural disaster pursuant to section 11-92.3;

(2) By the governor during a state of emergency pursuant to section 127A-13(a)(9); or

(3) For any other reason as may be authorized by law,

the disposition of votes cast for each candidate or question appearing on the ballot for the postponed election, from any precinct whether or not designated for postponement, including votes cast by absentee ballot, shall not be disclosed to the public until the closing of the polls for the postponed election."

SECTION 3. Section 11-92.3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

"(a) In the event of a flood, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, high wind, or other natural disaster, occurring prior to an election, that makes a precinct inaccessible, the chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections may consolidate precincts within a representative district. If the extent of damage caused by any natural disaster is such that the ability of voters, in any precinct, district, or county, to exercise their right to vote is substantially impaired, the chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections may require the registered voters of the affected precinct to vote by absentee ballot pursuant to section 15-2.5 and may postpone the conducting of an election in the affected precinct for no more than twenty-one days; provided that any such postponement shall not affect the conduct of the election, tabulation, or distribution of results for those precincts, districts, or counties not designated for postponement[.], except as otherwise provided in section 11-   . The chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections shall give notice of the consolidation, postponement, or requirement to vote by absentee ballot, in the affected county or precinct prior to the opening of the precinct polling place by whatever possible news or broadcast media are available. Precinct officials and workers affected by any consolidation shall not forfeit their pay."

SECTION 4. Section 11-152, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:

"(b) In those precincts using the electronic voting system, the ballots shall be taken in the sealed ballot boxes to the counting center according to the procedure and schedule promulgated by the chief election officer to promote the security of the ballots. In the presence of official observers, counting center employees may start to count the ballots prior to the closing of the polls; provided that there shall be no printout by the computer or other disclosure of the number of votes cast for a candidate or on a question prior to the closing of the polls[.], subject to the provisions of section 11-    for the disclosure of votes in the event of a postponed election. For the purposes of this section, the closing of the polls is that time identified in section 11-131 as the closing hour of voting."

SECTION 5. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 6. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

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Report Title:

Emergencies and Disasters; Postponed Elections; Disclosure of Election Results

 

Description:

In the event of an election postponement in any precinct, prohibits the public disclosure of voting results from every precinct for any ballot contest or question affected by the postponement, until the closing of the polls for the postponed election.

 

 

 

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