Voters have ability to create laws

The Office of the County Clerk would like to provide information to help answer some questions pertaining to the initiative power, its process and important dates to consider.

Many of you may have heard about or taken part in an ongoing drive to utilize the initiative power, as described in Article 11 of our Maui County Charter.

The initiative power gives voters who are registered in the County of Maui the ability to create or repeal a county ordinance. An ordinance is a law. Therefore, the initiative power provides registered voters a legislative right to propose or reconsider county laws as a unified voice from the community.

It is important to recognize that the initiative power is limited in nature. It cannot be used to effect changes to the capital program or annual budget, levied property taxes, a law making or repealing appropriations of money or laws authorizing the issuance of bonds, appointment of employees or emergency ordinances.

There are two types of initiative power:

* The first would allow voters to propose the reconsideration of an adopted ordinance or any part of an adopted ordinance to the Maui County Council.

* The second would allow voters to propose a new ordinance. An example of this type is the campaign relating to genetically modified organisms. Citizens have collected signatures with the intent of introducing a new law to the Maui County Council.

The County Clerk’s Office has received the initial submission of the signed petition relating to GMOs, and is in the review and verification process. The number of County of Maui registered voters needed to sign the petition is 8,465 – which is 20 percent of the total number of voters who cast ballots in the last mayoral election.

The initiative process has never been successfully completed in the County of Maui, but similar requests have occurred in other counties in the state. While every situation is different, past attempts suggest that groups should consider getting twice the amount of signatures required. Verification of the signatures will trim the petition submission of duplicate signatures, unregistered voters or illegible handwriting, which are grounds for disqualification.

It is important to remember that we are still in the beginning of a charter-mandated process. The Office of the County Clerk has 45 days to review the petition and, if needed, the petition group may submit supplemental signatures to reach the amount required.

Assuming the group collects enough valid signatures of registered voters within the allotted time, the council then has 60 days to review the proposed ordinance. If the council does not pass the proposed ordinance within the allotted time, citizens will get a chance to vote on the measure on the next general election ballot.

If the proposed measure is intended to be placed on the ballot of the Nov. 4 general election, it has to be submitted at least 90 days prior. If the measure is submitted after this deadline, it will be placed on the succeeding general election ballot.

Once on the ballot, voters will have a chance to vote for or against it. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of the measure, it becomes law when the election results are certified.

To access the Maui County Charter or to find additional information, please visit the county clerk’s website at

The clerk’s office continues to look forward to assisting you in exercising your rights as Maui County citizens. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 270-7749.

* Danny Mateo is the Maui County clerk.