And so 600,000 US citizens will not be represented in the US
Why isn't this a major story? Because the media cares just as
much about American democracy as the tops dogs in either party do--which is to
say, they don't care in the least.
In any case, we need to note that this election that Hawaii can't
afford is all the costlier because the state, like every other state (New York included),
now uses computerized voting systems run by private companies. Those systems are huge
budget-busters, far more expensive--and a whole lot less reliable-- than the
So which is better? Elections whose outcomes we have no reason to
believe, or elections too expensive to conduct?
Some choice. No Americans should have to make it. So let's get
rid of electronic voting and vote-counting systems, and keep US elections out of
Crisis: State Can't Afford Congressional Election
Cash-strapped Hawaii can't afford to pay for an election to replace a
congressman who is planning to step down next month to run for
governor, potentially leaving 600,000 urban Honolulu residents without
representation in Washington.
Budget cuts have
left the state Office of Elections with about $5,000 to last until
July, with a special election costing nearly $1 million, interim Chief
Elections Officer Scott Nago said.
Until the state
finds money or this fall's regularly scheduled elections occur, one of
Hawaii's two seats in the House of Representatives will remain
depends on representation of the people," Jean Aoki, legislative
liaison for the Hawaii chapter of the League of Women Voters. "I
can't imagine the citizens of our state not wanting representation in
the highest body in the land to make laws. It's just
are hoping to hold a vote-by-mail special election May 1 if they can
get the $925,000 it would cost. An election with walk-in voting would
cost $1.2 million.
Whoever wins would
become the favorite to take on the job permanently following
November's general election.
U.S. Rep. Neil
Abercrombie, a Democrat, announced last week he will resign Feb. 28
after 19 years so he can dedicate his time to the gubernatorial race.
His two-year term was set to expire in January 2011.
His departure opens
up the possibility that Hawaii's all-Democratic congressional
delegation could be broken up for the first time since
the winner-take-all special election include Democrats Ed Case, a
former congressman, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, as
well as Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a
The elections office
faces a series of additional hurdles. It is considering consolidating
nearly 30 percent of the state's 339 precincts next year with adjacent
precincts, and it has to obtain new voting machines because of a
ruling that the state overpaid on its prior contract.
where we want to be, but I don't see us not being able to catch up,"
legislators have suggested saving money by delaying the special
election until the regularly scheduled primary election in September.
The idea of putting off the election for that long may run up against
federal laws and the U.S. Constitution, Attorney General Mark Bennett
there would be a federal obligation to do it," Bennett told
lawmakers last week. "They don't want the states to go without
Democratic state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim question whether the money
might be better spent on education and social services, both of which
have been slashed during the economic downturn.
"I haven't seen
too many votes in the House that have been decided by a one-vote
difference," said Kim, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means
Committee. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should be
without representation, but given everything that's going on, we have
Several recent bills
in the House have won by a slim margin - most prominently, the
Democratic-written health care bill that passed in November,
Federal money may be
available to help Hawaii pay for a special election.
The U.S. Election
Assistance Commission hasn't issued an opinion on whether federal
money could be used, but it may be allowed under a law passed to
upgrade voting systems after the 2000 presidential election, said
commission spokeswoman Sarah Litton.
Hawaii would have to
ask the commission to decide whether the money can be spent in that
way, Litton said.
Separately, about $1.3 million may be available because of a recently
discovered accounting error. The money was distributed to Hawaii by
the federal government in 2003 to reimburse the state for new voting
machines, but it was put into the wrong account, elections officials
optimist that we'll get through this. Maybe not as elegantly as some
people would like, but we'll get through it," said state
Elections Commission Chairman William Marston. "If you got any
money, we'll take a contribution."