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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Military voting law could affect Hawaii primary date
By Selected News Articles @ 4:56 PM :: 5972 Views :: Energy, Environment

(This very important article appears in several of the Gannett-owned military papers, but in none of the local Hawaii media, including the Gannett-owned Honolulu Advertiser.  Typical.)

Related: Hawaii's 2010 election schedule violates new federal law  (Hawai’i Free Press was on this story last November.)

by Herbert A. Sample - The Associated Press  Posted : Monday Mar 15, 2010 15:31:29 EDT Navy Times

HONOLULU — Uncertainty is rising within Hawaii political circles over whether the state’s primary election in September will be moved to an earlier date and, if so, the impact that will have on candidates.

Some candidates for statewide offices are devising two sets of schedules and strategies — one based on the current Sept. 18 primary date, and the other for a primary in early August.

Others are just waiting to see how lawmakers, the state Elections Office and a federal agency ultimately handle the dilemma.

“When you make a campaign plan, Day Zero is election day,” Brian Schatz, one of several Democrats running for lieutenant governor, said last Thursday. “And we have yet to be informed when Day Zero is.”

The issue has been percolating for months since enactment of a federal law that requires states to distribute absentee ballots to overseas and military voters at least 45 days before the 2010 general election. The law is intended to give those voters more time to complete and return the ballots.

Hawaii doesn’t now comply because its Sept. 18 primary is exactly 45 days before the Nov. 2 general election. That leaves too little time to certify the primary results and send out general election ballots.

The state could resolve the problem in one of two ways. The state Elections Office could seek a waiver from a small Defense Department agency called the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

But there appears to have been weeks of miscommunication between the state elections office and the FVAP.

Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said FVAP officials in past weeks had verbally advised his office to delay its waiver application. He also cited a March 10 e-mail from an FVAP official that says the agency is now completing the waiver evaluation process and memos providing advice to states should be released in the spring.

But FVAP Director Bob Carey said in an interview last Wednesday that states are free to apply whenever they want. He said states may be waiting for additional guidance, but the law is clear enough.

“The fact of the matter is, Hawaii has had one of the worst records in terms of military and overseas voter success,” Carey said.

Nago, told of Carey’s comments, said his office would quickly apply for a waiver.

There’s no guarantee, however, that it will be approved. That’s where the state’s other option arises.

Legislation now in the state House would shift the primary election to Aug. 14 and change the candidate filing deadline from July 20 to June 2.

But Nago said he doesn’t want those dates changed because that would disrupt plans to site polling stations and prepare volunteer workers. “That’s going to be a nightmare for us,” he said.

It also would complicate some candidate schedules.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, for example, will be forced to resign his post once he files papers to run for the Democratic nomination for governor. But his mayoral tenure could turn out to be several weeks shorter than planned if the filing date is moved to June.

His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Laurie Au, a spokeswoman for Hannemann’s Democratic rival, former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, said his campaign will be ready regardless of the primary date.

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu of Waipahu, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said his low-budget campaign will be impacted if there is less time to develop a grass roots following.

“I’m kind of worried about if it does bump up earlier,” he said.

But Sen. Gary Hooser of Kauai, another Democratic lieutenant governor contender, said he’s in good shape because he started his campaign a year ago.

Another concern is that shifting primary and filing dates will disrupt strategies involving legislative votes to override gubernatorial vetoes. At least two state senators will leave office when they file for the lieutenant governor’s race, and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa will resign if she wins a special congressional election May 22.

However, veto override votes may not occur until early July, said Senate Vice President Russell Kokubun, D-Hilo-Naalehu.

All the uncertainty is confusing voters and elected officials, he warned.

“Some resolution needs to happen quickly,” he said, “and it needs to be clearly explained.”

If the state does not change its primary date and is denied a waiver, it may simply agree to a judicial order to extend the current deadline for general election absentee ballots for several days beyond Nov. 2, Nago said.

Another bill, sponsored by state House Speaker Calvin Say, would change primary election dates starting in 2012.

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Totally Related: Hawaii's 2010 election schedule violates new federal law

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