First Quarter 2000
Reapportionment (Carol Bain)
Care Package to Florida
State Censorship (Marcia Linville)
Viewpoint: Election 2000 (Jean Aoki)
Gambling Report (Dorothy Bobilin)
Education Committee Activity (Mary Anne Raywid)
Happy New Year!
Viewpoint: Election 2000
Does League believe in every citizen's right to vote in the selection of our national and local government officials? Yes!
Does League believe that the right to vote include the right to have one's vote counted? YES, YES, YES
Then where was League during the recent debate on the vote count in Florida?
Alas, we were faced with a dilemma. The debate was ultrapartisan. Our advocacy of the sanctity of each vote would have been construed as pro-Gore and anti-Bush. Had the national debate been more dispassionate and objective, I have no doubt that League's voice would have been heard. But to have entered that cesspool of spin and counter spin (I'm still hoarse from yelling at the television set, trying to put questions into the mouths of interviewers and talk show hosts.) might have tarnished our nonpartisanship and made us less effective in our educational and advocacy efforts hereafter. However, many Leaguers across the nation believe that safeguarding every citizen's right to vote has always been one of League's core objectives, and that even if it had been perceived as favoring one candidate over another, it would have been a matter of standing by one of our principles. Many of us spent many hours pondering over this dilemma with much anguish and frustration.
But, it is time to put this behind us and work at reforming our electoral system and putting in laws to make the voting systems in all states fairer to all people, and to eliminate laws, rules, and systems that tend to disenfranchise groups of citizens.
Hawaii, Be Proud
After that long nightmare, I emerged with renewed appreciation of our system in Hawaii with its policies which recognize each voter's rights and respects each ballot as the voice of a voter in the counting process.
The State should videotape the process ballots go through from the moment they leave the hands of the voters and through the counting process, following them from station to station -- the care with which damaged ballots are duplicated with controls all along the way, the respect for voter intent as absentee ballots which are unreadable by the optic scanner because the wrong types of pen or pencil have been used are stamped over without obliterating the original marks to make them readable, how observers watch over all the operations and escort ballots from station to station to make sure they don't go astray. This would be quite an education for our citizens and impress upon them the lengths to which our election officials go to insure that every vote counts.
A Matter of Balance
As they say, no system is perfect, and certainly, we have had to face problems in our elections system, but we work at correcting them.
However, we need to balance the need to safeguard the integrity of our elections system against the need to make sure that every eligible citizen has access to the ballot. Being overly zealous in promoting one can possibly harm the other, and both are essential to our system of democracy.
Remember the stories in the papers after the last election when the Honolulu City Clerk's office discovered that as many as 543 people on our voter lists were possibly aliens? This was revealed after city officials checked the names on the voter lists against the list of applicants for state identification cards. The follow through on this revealed that 101 of these had become naturalized after their applications for state IDs, and many others asked that their names be removed from the voter list. At that point, the City had not been able to contact the rest, but procedures have been put in place to check their eligibility should they show up to vote in the 2002 elections.
Without evidence of a wholesale attempt to commit fraud or of a group of people being manipulated to commit fraud, city officials from City Clerk Genevieve Wong, City elections officer Glen Takahashi, to Council Chair Yoshimura did not overreact, but initiated common sense action to address the problem. Governor Cayetano suggested at that time that the Attorney General's office took into how these people were registered, and this should be done. We also hope that our officials will continue looking for other means of cross checking our voter lists.
What is important is that in the attempt to make sure that our laws are followed, we not frighten our new citizens who come from cultures where government officials are viewed with awe and fear, from withdrawing from participating in an important activity which is the right of all of our citizens.
Vigilance in safeguarding the integrity of our elections is an important responsibility of not only our government officials but of all citizens. Responsible questioning of policies and procedures and thoughtful criticism are all important to the whole process; they keep us from becoming complacent. But, near-paranoid cries of imagined fraud at every twist and turn do more harm than good in identifying real problems.
Viewpoints are opinions expressed by individual members and do not necessarily express League's viewpoints. Members are welcome to submit their viewpoints on any topic for publication in the Ka Leo O Hana. The Editor.