Monday, May 24, 2010


MAYBE A WHACK WITH A 9-IRON WILL DO IT: Back in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s when the drive toward overdevelopment led to battles to stop construction of a plethora of golf courses such as those at the Westin and Hyatt, we used to half-joke that we only had one question for prospective council candidate... “Do you play golf?”.

So we really weren’t paying a lot of attention to a bill up for second and final reading Wednesday that would bring back lower rates at county’s Wailua Golf Course for non-residents after the number of rounds they played dropped severely since the rates were raised a year or so back.

But when the bill came to the council’s Parks and Transportation Committee it became apparent that tourists- especially those spending a month or more- were taking advantage of a loophole to get “local” rates by applying for and receiving a local driver’s license- currently the only requirement for “resident” rates- when they got here and changing it back when they got home.

So last Wednesday the committee added more requirements. After much wrangling over the legality of an amendment, with the assistance of County Attorney Al Castillo they decided that in addition to either a valid driver’s license or state ID with a local address- which was the source of the sole legal question asked- they would require either proof of having paid Hawai`i income tax or having actually voted in the last election or primary.

Problem is that the last bit- proof that one had voted in order to receive something of value (a lower rate)- is patently illegal.

It happens almost every election day. Some well meaning business owner or civic minded organization try to get people to vote by giving them a slice of pizza or some piece of junk if they show a “receipt” proving they voted.

That’s routinely followed by a press release from either the police chief or sometimes the attorney general warning that federal law prohibits anyone from providing something of value in exchange for one’s vote.

Although the reasoning behind the amendment wasn’t specifically stated it’s apparently because the same thing goes for proof of voter “registration” (as opposed to actually having voted) as for a driver’s licenses since all you need by law in Hawai`i to register to vote is an “intention” to make this your permanent home.

Offering a lower rate to play golf in exchange for showing you voted is plainly illegal. Even if you’re not paying someone to vote for a specific candidate it’s still “buying votes” and so, is prohibited.

You would think a county attorney- especially one like Castillo who sits before a live microphone and constantly interrupts meetings- without being recognized by the chair- for everything from admonishing members of the public to take their hats off to stifling discussion of bills by councilmembers- would know this and have said something, especially after signing off on legality of the amendment.

(Parenthetically, since his interruptions often raise points of parliamentary procedure-which is actually the county clerk’s job according to council rules- you would think that he would also know that interrupting the chair without being recognized is a violation of Roberts Rules of Order.)

You would also think that professional politicians, many of whom have served a decade or more and thus gone through five or more elections, would know that you can’t pay someone to vote.

And you would think that the county clerk- a person who was sitting right there and oversees both council services and elections- surely knows this and might have mentioned it.

But this is Kaua`i where voting irregularities are all part and parcel of a system that routinely turns a blind eye to irregularities like 2008’s “Dickie ‘Wala`ua’ Chang” listing on the ballot and many others.

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