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State’s election authorities under fire; review set at Capitol today

October 13, 2009
By HERBERT A. SAMPLE, The Associated Press

HONOLULU - With less than a year before a major primary election, the state Elections Commission today will discuss the troubled preparations for that balloting and the performance of the state's chief elections officer.

Kevin Cronin, the Elections Office chief, has been under fire from legislators for weeks over his handling of elections equipment contracting, his leadership skills and for not providing sufficient information about his agency's budget woes.

Legislators also have criticized the commission for inadequately overseeing the Office of Elections, which conducts statewide elections.

In response, commissioners decided to hold a meeting to get a handle on the situation, said Chairman William Marston.

Cronin's performance will be evaluated in a closed-door session.

''It could be a condemnation. It could be support,'' Marston said. ''But I think we need to come to some unified conclusion about it.''

The elections chief had a rough time testifying before the Senate Ways and Means Committee last month. Afterward, committee Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim, D-Kalihi Valley-Halawa, said that Cronin ''really didn't have a clue.''

She later sent a video recording of the committee hearing to Elections Commission members.

Marston has been supportive of Cronin, noting that the Elections Office conducted a well-regarded election last year.

For his part, Cronin has said that he was not consulted when Gov. Linda Lingle's aides drafted his office's current budget late last year. In addition, Lingle has subsequently ordered cuts to the agency's allocations because of the state's budget difficulties.

Cronin has been warning for several weeks that his agency has too little funding to adequately run next year's primary election on Sept. 18 and the general on Nov. 2. There are races for governor, Legislature, a U.S. Senate post, two U.S. House seats and Maui County mayor.

The commission meeting is at the state Capitol.



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