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Sunday, March 22, 2009
Hawaii Republicans challenge state's open primary system
By Andrew Walden @ 1:04 PM :: 16008 Views :: Office of Elections, Republican Party
by Andrew Walden

Hawaii County Republicans, meeting Saturday at Waimea have proposed changes to the way that State Republicans select their candidates.  The proposals are contained in two resolutions adopted unanimously by the 50 delegates present after extensive discussion.  One calls for a shift to a Presidential Caucus System for Hawaii Republicans who now select their Presidential delegates at the State Party convention.  The other resolution urges the State Convention vote to shift Republicans from an Open Primary system to a Modified-Closed Primary System and then file a federal suit against the State to overturn provisions of the Hawaii State Constitution which require the open primary system.

RELATED: Isle GOP proposes election changesHawaii Democrats debate closed primary (backgrounder) , 2008 SB: Caucus confusion Isle voters gather to pick Republican party delegates

Hawaii's current primary system allows members of any political party to select the primary ballot of an opposing party and participate in selecting the candidates of that party.  A modified-closed primary system will allow participation by registered Republican party members plus all independent voters. 

Any shift to a modified-closed primary system would require party-preference voter registration.  Under the open primary system, Hawaii election officials do not now record party preference while registering voters.  As a result, both political parties have very small membership rosters.  Proponents of the change believe that as many as 120,000 Hawaii voters would select a Republican Party preference if given the opportunity to do so while registering to vote.  

Hawaii Democrats--under pressure from Sen Inouye and the AFL-CIO--in January, 2008 abandoned their 2006 convention decision to seek a modified-closed primary system.

Delegates also heard talks by Hawaii GOP Party Chair candidate Jonah Kaauwai and State GOP Executive Director Adam Deguire and elected a new County GOP leadership team consisting of Daryl Smith County Chair, Charles Ensey East Hawaii vice-Chair, David Myrick West Hawaii vice-Chair, Mark Miranda Treasurer, and Sue McConnell Secretary.

Also on Saturday, Maui County Republicans met in Kihei and elected John Henry County Chair, Mei Ling Akuna Vice Chair of membership, Lei Austin-Fagan Vice Chair of Events and Kay Ghean Secretary-Treasurer.

The Hawaii State GOP Convention will be in Waikoloa May 15-17.  Convention info: 

RELATED:  Hundreds of Oahu Republicans pack County Convention 


Text of unanimous resolutions:


Whereas: The Hawaii State Constitution Art.2, Sec.4, adopted in 1979, reads: “no person shall be required to declare a party preference or nonpartisanship as a condition of voting in any primary or special primary election.”

Whereas: Haw. Rev. Stat. § 12-31 reads: “Each voter shall be issued the primary or special primary ballot for each party and the nonpartisan primary or special primary ballot.  A voter shall be entitled to vote only for candidates of one party or only for nonpartisan candidates.”

Whereas: The US Supreme Court has twice ruled unconstitutional State laws dictating the method by which political parties choose their candidates.

Whereas: Any closed or modified-closed primary system would require the State Election Commission to register voters’ party affiliations.

Whereas: Voter participation in Hawaii primaries has steadily declined from 74.6% in 1978 to 36.9% in 2008.

Whereas: Voter participation increases and democracy is strengthened when voters are offered clear choices between candidates of opposing parties with contrasting platforms.

Whereas: 120,556 Hawaii voters voted for John McCain for president of the US in 2008 but only about 20,000 are now members of the Republican Party.

Whereas: Identifying 100,000 new Republicans would strengthen the Hawaii Republican Party.

Whereas: Allowing only Republicans and independents to participate in Republican primaries ensures Republican candidates will be selected without the undue influence of members of the opposing parties while also ensuring that Republican candidates have sufficient appeal to the independent voters necessary for electoral victory.

Whereas: The AFL-CIO threatened to cut off all funding to the Hawaii Democratic Party unless Hawaii Democrats abandoned their 2006 Convention decision to seek a modified-closed primary system.

Whereas: Hawaii Democrats’ State Executive Committee on January 16, 2008 did vote to abandon efforts to file suit for a modified-closed primary system under pressure from the unions and from Sen. Dan Inouye.

Whereas: A Federal Court in Idaho November 27, 2007 ruled that only political parties have legal standing to challenge a state’s restriction of parties’ choices of primary election system.

Therefore be it resolved that: The Hawaii County Republican Party urges the Hawaii State Republican Convention meeting at Waikoloa May 15-17 vote to adopt the modified-closed primary system for choosing Republican candidates in all partisan races other than the presidential race.

Therefore be it further resolved that: The Hawaii County Republican Party urges the Hawaii State Republican Convention meeting at Waikoloa May 15-17 vote to direct the Republican State Executive Committee to, at the soonest opportunity, file suit to overturn Hawaii’s unconstitutional obstacles to the modified-closed primary system.



Whereas: Hawaii Republican Party state convention delegates currently elect RNC delegates tied to their support of a Presidential candidate at a State Convention in May of a Presidential election year.

Whereas: An earlier vote on Presidential delegates would increase the influence of Hawaii in the Republican Presidential selection process.

Whereas: An earlier vote on Presidential delegates could cause competing Republican campaigns to expend resources in Hawaii recruiting supporters to participate in caucus voting.

Whereas: A “winner-take-all” caucus will be even more attractive to the competing campaigns.

Whereas: Direct-vote County or District caucuses will allow the widest possible participation by Republican Party members thus ensuring a selection more in line with the wishes of the party base.

Whereas: Direct-vote County or District caucuses could create an opportunity to recruit new members by attracting thousands of new Republicans statewide.

Therefore be it resolved that: The Hawaii County Republican Party urges the Hawaii State Republican Convention meeting at Waikoloa May 15-17 vote to adopt a County or District-level Republican Presidential caucus system with direct election of RNC delegates pledged to Presidential candidates on a “winner-take-all” basis to be conducted simultaneously on a single day in the month of February starting in the year 2012.

RELATED: Isle GOP proposes election changesHawaii Democrats debate closed primary (backgrounder) , 2008 SB: Caucus confusion Isle voters gather to pick Republican party delegates


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