Chair Luke, Chair, Vice-Chair Nishimoto, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii would like to provide testimony of support with comments on HB 612 HD1 which prohibits disclosure of votes cast in a postponed
election; authorizes discretionary withholding of election results unrelated to
postponement; clarifies Governor’s emergency postponement authority; and limits
postponement period to seven days after an election.
The League of Women Voters supports requiring that, in the event that an election is postponed due to natural disaster, election results be withheld until affected precinct votes are received or polls are closed. Living in Hawaii, we are all keenly aware of the fact that, nationally, election results are often released before our polls close. This is not desirable for voters or candidates involved.
The League of Women Voters opposes the statement under section 3, which limits the
postponement of an election for no more than 7 days. No one can predict exactly the
consequences of any given natural disaster, so it would be wise to keep options open and use a term such as “as soon as possible.” During the 2014 Primary Election in Puna, it was extremely difficult for many residents to move about or receive mail for longer than 7 days, and Iselle was not the most debilitating hurricane Hawaii has ever seen.
League supports amending HB 612 HD 1 to say “as soon as possible,” rather than a number of days for conducting an election after a natural disaster. The sooner after a natural disaster the election process is completed, the better, but flexibility is needed.
We urge you to consider our comments on, and support for, this bill and thank you for the
opportunity to submit testimony.
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports HB 612 which would prohibit the public disclosure of voting results from every precinct for any ballot contest or question affected by the postponement, until the closing of the polls for the postponed election.
Postponement of elections because of weather or other emergencies is not a hypothetical concern, as the dramatic postponement of the primary elections in Puna last summer demonstrated. At the outset of the 2014 primary election in Puna the Democratic primary race for the United States Senate was extremely close, demonstrating dramatically that “every vote counts.” Any reasonable person knows that such emergencies are inevitable and that we can learn from this event so that we are better prepared in the future.
The League has testified at the Election Commission that we already have a reasonable 21 day window in which to postpone and reschedule an election because of an emergency. We have also testified in strong support of SB 243 which would make clear which government official has the authority to determine whether to postpone an election or vote by absentee ballot in an election affected by a natural disaster. We sincerely hope SB 243 will be passed this year, so that this aspect of election preparedness is resolved.
The way we vote is changing. The League expects and supports statewide voting by mail in Hawaii. HB 612 can complement other election reforms currently underway. For this reason, we suggest an amendment to the bill in section (3) to indicate that the disposition of votes cast shall not be disclosed to the public “until voting for the postponed election has concluded.” That way, if there were no physical polls in the affected precincts or districts, election results could still be disclosed after the conclusion of voting.
It is true that the public has a right to prompt disclosure of the outcome of elections. This bill would permit the disclosure of election results for any candidate or question that does not appear on the ballots for precincts where an election was postponed. This appears to satisfy the reasonable expectation for prompt disclosure of most election results most of the time.
Ballot counting could begin as soon as ballots from postponed elections are received. But we agree that it can discourage voting in the precincts affected by a postponement if the outcome of that election is announced before voting has concluded in the districts postponed because of an emergency. For this reason we support the bill.
We urge you to pass this bill. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.