Reported by: Andrew Pereira
Last Update: 7/27 10:52 am
Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer says budget restrictions have severely hampered his ability to plan for the 2010 elections.
Cronin told members of the Hawaii Elections Commission Wednesday his office has only $14,440 to complete necessary tasks, such as printing brochures for candidates and sending his employees to the neighbor islands to train election workers.
"We will do the best that we can,” Cronin told Commission members, “but do not be surprised if at the primary election in 2010 it gets ugly.”
Cronin testified $2.8 million set aside for the office of elections cannot be touched since lawmakers mandated the funds be used solely for the purpose of purchasing electronic voting machines and optical scanners.
Of the $981,014 that was left to fund the Office of Elections, $113,346 was restricted by Gov. Lingle as part of her plan to balance the state budget. Cronin said after paying salaries for Office of Elections employees and reimbursing counties for the 2008 elections, the office was left with only a few thousand dollars to plan and prepare for 2010.
“Our goal is to have the same kind of election (we had in 2008) but we can't do it with where we are today,” a frustrated Cronin told commission members.
At this point it’s not known how much of the $2.8 million the state will have to spend on voting equipment since a bid to potential vendors has not yet been released.
“There's a chance that it might not be enough (and) there's a chance that it may be too much,” Cronin told Khon2. “We don't know until the request for proposals for the new voting system is issued and the vendors submit their bids.”
Cronin told commission members he hoped to borrow $113,000 of the $2.8 million set aside for voting equipment. He said the borrowed funds would go a long way in helping to prepare for the 2010 elections, which encompasses a vote for Hawaii governor.
“That ground work includes such things as preparing and printing brochures and pamphlets for candidates (and) for election officials,” Cronin said. “In addition it involves costs to send Election Office employees to the neighbor islands to train election officials.”
The nine members of the Hawaii Elections Commission have no authority to appropriate funds for elections. However Chairman William Marston said members agreed to lobby on behalf of Cronin's office.
“I think we're all going to look for people that we know and we think can help and understand the problem to see if we can't get some relief here,” Marston told Khon2 at the conclusion of Wednesday’s hearing.
Cronin said his office is already entertaining plans to close up to 30 percent of polling locations on Oahu in order to cut costs. In 2008 Oahu had a total of 212 polling places.
“We're going to have fewer polling places, more people voting at those polling places and all of the issues that arise under those circumstances,” Cronin told commission members about the possible scenario.
Cronin added that the voting public could help improve his office’s budget crisis by taking part in absentee and walk-in voting as much as possible.
Andrew may be reached at ph. 368-7273.