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Voting & Elections 05.22.2020

Honolulu Star-Advertiser OpEd Column - Elections office needs to prepare for vote-by-mail problems

In a few months, a potential 750,000 registered voters will vote by mail (VBM) for the very first time statewide in Hawaii. We’re in the midst of a pandemic causing — among much else — unprecedented social disruption and unpredictability. A second wave of COVID-19 is predicted during the lead-up to the general election in the fall. Many voters will not understand the new VBM process, or even be aware of it until days or hours before it begins. Common Cause Hawaii has already heard questions such as, “Do I have to register again?” (No, you don’t.) Yet the proclamation lists only two voter service centers (VSCs) on Oahu, three on Maui, two on Hawaii island and one on Kauai as sufficient to handle not just in-person voting, same-day voter registration and the collection of voted ballots — but also the lost, undelivered and spoiled ballots, plus the confusion, mistakes, mishaps and countless questions that VBM’s launch will inevitably bring.

Voting & Elections 05.14.2020

Honolulu Civil Beat - Community Voice - Hawaii Is The Envy Of The Nation — For Voting At Home

Hawaii's all mail-in voting system is being touted as the cure-all that could save lives and preserve democracy, when voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Under Hawaii’s new vote-by-mail law, there will no longer be traditional polling locations. There will, instead, only be eight voter service centers statewide for people to vote in-person, same-day register to vote, or perform other necessary voter services. However, comprehensive planning will be critically important for Hawaii’s all mail-in Aug. 8 primary and Nov. 3 general elections to be successful.

The latest emergency proclamation by Gov. David Ige steps back from blanket suspensions of the state open meetings and open records laws that he had issued in mid-March in an effort to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.

Common Cause of Hawaii and the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest worked with state attorneys to come up with the new language that appears at the end of the proclamation the governor issued Tuesday. For more information on this new proclamation, see the next article in these News Clips and click on the Read More button.

In a new proclamation, the governor asks agencies to do their best when it comes to providing public access to public meetings and records.

The proclamation states that if public boards and commissions, such as county councils, do conduct business, which would require proper social distancing and teleconferencing capabilities, then every attempt should be made under normal Sunshine Law procedures to ensure public notification and participation, from posting agenda materials online to accommodating remote viewing and testimony. The Civil Beat Law Center and Common Cause Hawaii both wrote letters to Ige urging him to reconsider the suspension of the so called Sunshine Law, saying among other things that it was “recklessly overbroad.”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser editors endorse the proposed strategy by a Common Cause Hawaii-led coalition for the state to maintain the intent of the Sunshine Law.

In response to the first signs of COVID-19 community spread in Hawaii, Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation in mid-March that, In addition to sensible provisions, included a puzzling suspension of a state public access law. The appalling upshot is that government bodies and agencies are now free to push forward with policy-making decisions while keeping the public in the dark, as they are not required to provide even a bare minimum of access to public meetings A coalition of open-government advocates led by Common Cause Hawaii has proposed a reasonable strategy for maintaining the intent of the law as the state continues to grapple with coronavirus outbreak concerns. For starters, it asserts that just as citizens are deferring nonessential travel and activity, so should government defer noncritical policy-making decisions until “full and meaningful public involvement can be guaranteed.”

State attorneys are working on language that would restore at least some portions of the suspended Sunshine Law that requires government meetings to be public.

A coalition of open-government and public-access advocates led by Common Cause Hawaii sharply criticized Ige for imposing the restriction, arguing that suspension of the Sunshine Law wiped away decades of government transparency.

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