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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Constitutional amendment sought to establish Secretary of State in Hawaii

Advertiser Staff

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona said today that he would propose a constitutional amendment to establish an independent, elected Secretary of State to administer elections.

The Secretary of State would replace the state Elections Commission and the 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 in a statement. “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.”

State lawmakers would decide whether to put the constitutional amendment before voters.

The lieutenant governor used to administer elections until the 1990s, when lawmakers, concerned about the appearance of a conflict in having an elected official in charge of elections, transferred the authority to a chief elections officer.

The Elections Commission was created by lawmakers in 2004 to oversee elections policy. The commission also has the power to hire and fire the chief elections officer.

The state Office of Elections has struggled with state budget cuts that have influenced planning for the September primary and November general election.

Legal challenges have also temporarily left the state without voting machines.