Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Har, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports HB746
which specifies the purposes of the elections observer program sponsored by the Election Commission and the duty of the Chief Elections Officer to implement and maintain the program. While Section 11-8.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, permits the Elections Commission to establish policies for administering such a program, it does not specify the duties of this Election Observer program. The League of Women Voters believes Election Observers are an essential safeguard for voting integrity, and their responsibilities should be clear in our statutes.
For more than 20 years, the Office of Elections has sponsored a successful Election Day Observers’ Team in Hawaii’s vote counting centers. This important team watches to see that counting center activities are conducted in accordance with State election laws and the rules and regulations governing elections. They assist elections officials in preparing an audit trail that accounts for all ballots and documents as they are processed through the counting centers, and they maintain the integrity of the electoral system by conducting all activities with the highest professional and ethical standards. In short, the Election Observer program is legitimate observation by trained independent members of the general public.
We think an Election Observer program sponsored by the Elections Commission and conducted by the Office of Elections is preferable to one composed entirely of partisan political party observers. Nevertheless, in the precincts themselves, we support Section 11-77 of our current law for appointment of watchers at precincts, whereby no more than one watcher from each qualified political party may be present at any time in each precinct. This law appropriately prohibits unauthorized pollwatchers and also limits the number of pollwatchers so that precinct operations may be conducted carefully and efficiently.
The League of Women Voters pledges to cooperate with the Office of Elections in recruiting volunteers for the Election Observer program. This program together with our law regarding appointment of pollwatchers are important, because we are aware there are infrequent attempts by self-appointed pollwatchers, without any official sanction, to “monitor” Hawaii Election Day activities. We reject such unsponsored challengers out of hand.
We urge you to pass this bill. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.