Thursday, July 23, 2009
Lingle refuses to pay for elections
by Larry Geller
Is it just that our governor doesn’t know how to use Excel?
Cutting the budget under the tight conditions we have now would seem to require a bit of planning. For example, the Office of Elections still needs to hold an election in 2010, but by imposing across the board cuts (not requiring much planning expertise), Lingle has effectively shut down the office after September. The story first broke right here, in Administration cuts put Hawaii 2010 elections in jeopardy, (7/15/2009).
Since there is a federal component of the elections, they must take place. So realizing that, you’d think she would make sure that enough money is left in their budget (something more than the $14,000 reported by the Office) to carry out the elections.
You’d think, but no:
Asked if she would release the restricted money, Lingle said, "We are not going to do that." She added, "Every department is dealing with the same level of restriction and having to make adjustments and continue to operate and they are going to have to do the same. [Star-Bulletin, Office wants more money for elections, 7/23/2009]
Nor, does it appear, that the state can shift to a vote-by-mail system. From the same article:
Cronin said the state attorney general, when asked specifically, said the Elections Office could not simply mail all registered voters a ballot.
What happens next? If the Governor remains intransigent, then when the $14,000 runs out, it won’t be possible for the Office to pay its utility bills or buy typewriter ribbons or carbon paper.
The Legislature, when it meets next year, is likely to be amenable to approve using part of the $2.8 million now reserved for voting machines to fund the election, but there is no way the Lege can control whether the money is actually released to the Office of Elections or not—that’s up to the Governor. As the economy continues to decay, the money could be diverted or withheld. Lingle has done it before, as senior citizens dependent on meals on wheels or chore assistance painfully know.
The state also needs to acquire equipment and to be able to ship it to the voting places. It needs to deal with the various lawsuits the Office is involved in, since they relate to contracts for purchasing the equipment (see earlier story).
If it turns out that the Governor’s cuts truly cripple Hawaii’s ability to hold an election, predictably the matter will be taken out of our hands by the feds. No, they won’t pay for it themselves, they will take the money out of the state’s hide somehow.
It shouldn’t go that far, because everyone knows the consequences the state will face if it doesn’t fix this.
Allegedly, Venezuela printed the ballots to be used in Zelaya’s referendum in Honduras. Maybe Hugo Chavez would print some ballots for Hawaii also, if we asked nicely?