Sunday, January 10, 2010

What Price Democracy In Hawaii

 It was bound to happen. Like most cash-strapped states, Hawaii has slashed its budget so much it has only $5,000 on hand to pay for a million-dollar special election.

What caught my attention and what goads me is that this is a special election to accommodate an incumbent Congressman who plans to quit and run for governor. Unless the feds plug the cash hole, Hawaii is faced with only one of its two representatives in Congress from February until January 2011.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, announced last week he will resign Feb. 28 after 19 years so he can dedicate his time to the gubernatorial race. The special election would be held May 1. The possibility looms that a potential 600,000 voters in Hawaii would not be represented for almost a year.

Interim Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago told the Associated Press his office has only $5,000 until the new fiscal year begins July 1. State Attorney General Mark Bennett advised the legislature that delaying the special election could run afoul federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

Sarah Litton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, told the AP federal money could be forthcoming.

Hawaii would have to ask the commission to decide whether the money can be spent in that way, Litton said.

Separately, about $1.3 million may be available because of a recently discovered accounting error. The money was distributed to Hawaii by the federal government in 2003 to reimburse the state for new voting machines, but it was put into the wrong account, elections officials said.

I hold nothing against politicians who want to further their careers. This Hawaiian case smacks of personal ambition passed onto to taxpayers to the tune of a million bucks.

Each state has its own laws to replace incumbents who die or resign before their terms expire. Too often the politicians' ambitions take advantage of the system.

The most disgraceful example that immediately comes to mind is Sen. Joe Lieberman who in 2004 ran simultaneously for vice president and still appeared on the Connecticut ballot as an incumbent senator for reelection. That's covering all bases, my friends.

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