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Aiona calls for establishing elected Secretary of State

MEDIA RELEASE

Lt. Gov. James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr. has announced his intention to propose a constitutional amendment during the 2010 legislative session to establish an elected, nonpartisan Secretary of State in Hawaii, who would assume responsibility for administering the Office of Elections.

The measure, if approved by voters, would repeal the powers and duties of the Elections Commission and eliminate the position of Chief Elections Officer.

“I am proposing a solution to establish a direct line of accountability, improve efficiency and increase public involvement in our election system,” Aiona said. “It is critically important for voters to gain more control over this vital part of our Democracy. We must restore integrity and confidence in the system. Now is the time for change.”

Voters elect Secretaries of State in charge of elections in 38 other states. Alaska and Utah assign that task to their Lieutenant Governors. In each case, voters have a direct say in naming the administrator of their election system.

Aiona’s proposal would restructure the governance of the Office of Elections to create greater accountability for Hawaii voters. The bill would establish the Office of the Secretary of State, attach the Office of Elections to the Office of the Secretary of State, and place the Secretary of State in charge of elections.

Currently, voters in Hawaii have no direct authority over the Office of Elections. The Elections Commission, which appoints the Chief Elections Officer, is composed of individuals selected by only four members of the State Legislature.

Hawaii consistently ranks at or near the bottom nationally for voter turnout.

If passed, the constitutional amendment would give Hawaii voters the authority to decide in the 2010 General Election whether or not to establish an elected, nonpartisan Secretary of State.

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