2014 will bring the first OHA Primary Election

`Ano`ai kakou… During the 2013 legislative session, Senate Bill 3 was signed into law as Act 287. The new law established Primary elections for OHA Trustees, beginning with the 2014 elections.

Since this will be the first time in OHA’s 30-year history that the general public will vote in a Primary Election for OHA Trustees, I became very concerned about whether OHA voters might get confused.

Late last year, I wrote a letter to the State’s Chief Election Officer asking him about his preparations. With less than 7 months before the Primary Election on August 9, 2014, I explained to him that I am deeply concerned that I haven’t witnessed any serious efforts by the Office of Elections to educate the public. They should already be placing public service announcements in the media to properly familiarize everyone regarding the new OHA voting process.

According to the new law whether or not OHA will need a Primary Election depends on how many candidates sign up. For example, in the case of OHA’s Three At-Large Seats without a Residency Requirement:

(1) If there are only three or less candidates that sign up for the three seats, the Chief Election Officer will declare those candidates to be legally elected and their names won’t appear on the primary or general election ballot;

(2) If four, five, or six candidates sign up for the three seats, the Chief Election Officer will automatically put their names on the general election ballot and they won’t appear on the primary election ballot; and

(3) However, if seven or more candidates sign up for the three seats, their names will be listed on the Primary Election ballot. The names of the top six candidates receiving the highest number of total votes in the Primary Election will be placed on the General Election ballot.

Also, if any candidate receives more than 50% of the total votes cast for the Primary election, the Chief Election Officer will declare that candidate to be legally elected and the name of that candidate won’t appear on the General Election ballot.

As most of us can remember, we were all very disappointed about the lack of ballots during the 2012 General Election. The Office of Elections has assured me (in a response letter) that, for the 2014 Elections, they will be printing a ballot for each registered voter. However, based on their past performance, I am not very confident that something else won’t go wrong. I am hoping that the Office of Elections will do their jobs meticulously and not leave anything to chance.

I believe that publishing a sample ballot to show the public exactly where to find the OHA candidates (because this is new) on the Primary Election ballot would go a long way to lessen any confusing over the new voting procedure and will help potential candidates to feel more secure about the process. Otherwise, there will surely be challenges to the OHA elections by losing candidates which will prevent elected candidates from taking office.

If you vote in the OHA elections and you too have concerns, please write to the Office of Elections, State of Hawaii at 802 Lehua Avenue, Pearl City, 96782. You may also call (808) 453-VOTE (8683) to voice your concerns. Mahalo nui.