March 15-21 is Sunshine Week, a nationwide nonpartisan effort to encourage the public to recognize the achievements and identify the setbacks in efforts to protect a citizen’s “right to know” (http://sunshineweek.org).
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii County has been proactive concerning two Sunshine Week issues that will affect voter education, information, and voter access.
The LWVHC has requested that the county Charter Commission’s ad hoc committee tasked with drafting ballot language for the 21 proposed charter amendments on the Nov. 3 ballot present each proposed amendment as a separate ballot measure.
While the Charter Commission discussed at their Aug. 8, 2019, meeting the possibility of consolidating some measures, we believe that most of the proposed amendments include substantive changes that should stand on their own.
Consolidating amendments might confuse voters, and lead to voters choosing to oppose or not vote on a particular amendment, even though they might agree with some of the content.
We also recommended that the Charter Commission publish the proposed ballot language for the amendments before the Charter Commission holds hearings on them, so that the public has enough time to respond. The LWVHC supports the Charter Commission’s intent to launch a voter education campaign to inform the public about the proposed amendments and ballot language.
The LWVHC is also concerned about the Office of the County Clerk’s plans to open only two voter service centers on the island for the 10 days prior to the election as part of the new vote by mail system. We believe that more centers are needed to adequately serve the voters of such a large county.
Voters unfamiliar with vote by mail system might assume that they can still vote in their traditional precincts, which might be miles away from either voter service center. Voter turnout could be suppressed as a result.
The LWVHC also recommended that the county open additional voter service centers after consulting with the public to identify the best locations for the additional sites.
The people’s trust and confidence in our government and institutions depend on transparency and the power of knowledge. The LWVHC believes that our recommendations will result in an informed electorate, which we believe is a significant factor in voter turnout and engagement.
During Sunshine Week, the LWVHC encourages the public to recognize and support efforts to empower voters by improving voter education, information and access.
President, League of Women Voters of Hawaii County