Monday, January 11, 2010

Hawaii Can't Even Afford a Congressional Election

The budget woes of U.S. states seem to be compounding day by day. After California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, asked for a $6.9 billion federal bailout, it is now Hawaii's turn. MSNBC is reporting that Hawaii is so cash-strapped that it cannot even afford a Congressional election.
Cash-strapped Hawaii can't afford to pay for an election to replace a congressman who is planning to step down next month to run for governor, potentially leaving 600,000 urban Honolulu residents without representation in Washington. Budget cuts have left the state Office of Elections with about $5,000 to last until July, with a special election costing nearly $1 million, interim Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said. Until the state finds money or this fall's regularly scheduled elections occur, one of Hawaii's two seats in the House of Representatives will remain vacant.
Elections officials are hoping to hold a vote-by-mail special election May 1 if they can get the $925,000 it would cost. An election with walk-in voting would cost $1.2 million. Some state legislators have suggested saving money by delaying the special election until the regularly scheduled primary election in September. The idea of putting off the election for that long may run up against federal laws and the U.S. Constitution, Attorney General Mark Bennett said. "I believe there would be a federal obligation to do it," Bennett told lawmakers last week. "They don't want the states to go without representation."
Others like Democratic state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim question whether the money might be better spent on education and social services, both of which have been slashed during the economic downturn. "I haven't seen too many votes in the House that have been decided by a one-vote difference," said Kim, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should be without representation, but given everything that's going on, we have to prioritize."
"I'm an optimist that we'll get through this. Maybe not as elegantly as some people would like, but we'll get through it," said state Elections Commission Chairman William Marston. "If you got any money, we'll take a contribution."

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