House Unveils Election Reform Package

Mar 6, 2019

House Speaker Scott Saiki (podium) unveiled the House Election Reform legislative package at a news conference at the Capitol
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The State House of Representatives unveiled its election reform bills that crossed over to the Senate.

House Judiciary Committee chair, Chris Lee
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The House of Representatives package includes more than a dozen bills focusing on election reform, money in politics and public corruption.  House Judiciary Committee Chair, Chris Lee, says the measures are an attempt to restore the public’s trust in government.

“Even if a handful of these bills end up moving this year, it still represents the single largest reform in Hawai’i voting and elections and transparency and campaign finance policy in perhaps a generation.”

Currently, candidates in close political races have to petition the courts for a re-count. A constitutional amendment, if approved by voters in 2020, would trigger an automatic recount.  Representative Chris Todd.

Rep. Chris Todd
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“The current language would be for an election result that would be decided by fewer than 100 votes or by less than a half percent.  Whichever one is smaller, in that case.  You know, what I think what we’re looking for is a little more clarity and ensuring the fairness of these elections going forward.”

All mail-in elections, automatic voter registration for driver’s license and I-D applicants, and pre-registration for public school students, are all designed to increase voter turnout.  Representative Stacelynn Eli. 

Rep. Stacelynn Eli
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“My hope is that young people, turning 18, and everyone across our state, to really take on their civic duty and their kuleana to truly chart the future of our state. And, that power comes from the power of the vote.”

House Speaker Scott Saiki
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

There are also bills focusing on campaign contributions and spending violations and one measure that prohibits some state employees and officers from participating in political activities.  They impose penalties and fines.   House Speaker Scott Saiki says the House package is now with the State Senate.

“Some of the major issues are covered by senate bills as well, such as statewide mail-in voting and a couple of recount bills.  My feeling is that there’s a mutual agreement between the House and Senate to move some of these major topics.”

Daniel Gluck, executive director, Hawai'i Ethics Commission
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Following the news conference, State Ethics Commission executive director, Daniel Gluck, said Hawai’i’s commission was the first in the nation, celebrating 50 years last year.

“A lot of the measures we have here take existing provisions and either provide greater clarity or greater breadth.  And, I think our ethics code is very strong and we’re always interested in measures that would help make it stronger.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.