Thursday, July 12, 2012


YOUR WRONG TO VOTE: Age has benefits. The "been there done that" factor can halve research time.

Unfortunately when combined with an inevitable senior moment it can lead to misinformation. That's what led us to wrongly tell our readers that the race for prosecuting attorney would be decided on August 11 because only two people are running and one, by definition, is bound to get "50% plus 1."

That's how it has been in every election for prosecuting attorney (PA) on Kaua`i. But now for the first time a charter amendment that was passed by voters in 2008 will take effect for the PA election. And of course, being Kaua`i, it is required that something about it be absurd so the provision essentially says that even though there are only two candidates they will appear on "the first nonpartisan election" ballot for no particular reason other than that is the way the provision was written.

The impetus for the amendment was the 2006 election where, in what is commonly called the "primary" election, then-Mayor Bryan Baptiste ran for reelection and got 50% plus exactly four votes, beating out four opponents in what turned out to be the closest election in Kaua`i history.

It's understandable that with five candidates people just didn't show up for the primaries thinking no one would get the "50% plus 1" needed to be elected outright, without the top two going on to the November election.

They felt cheated when Baptiste got 8,173 votes and chief challenger, former Councilmember Jesse Fukushima came in with 4,725 votes, because when the other three- John Hoff, Bruce Pleas and Janee Taylor- got 1,984, 1,083 and 377 respectively it added up to 8169 votes for the others... four votes shy of the amount that would have prompted a November showdown between Baptiste and Fukushima.

It seemed like a no-brainer- change the charter so that no matter what the vote totals were,d the top two finishers in the primary would meet in November.

So the attorneys (some hired specifically to make sure the amendment did what the charter review commission wanted it to do) worded the amendment this way:

Article I The County And Its Government
Section 1.03. County Elections.
(C)1. Offices of the Mayor, Prosecuting Attorney and Council members to be elected by districts, if any. In the case of the offices of mayor, prosecuting attorney, or any council members to be elected by districts, the names of the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes for these offices in the first nonpartisan election shall be placed on the ballot for the second nonpartisan election. However, if there is only one candidate for each of said offices, such candidate shall be elected. (Amended 2008)

There's one problem with that. It works fine when there are three or more candidates because no matter what "the names of the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes" go on to November.

But the current charter failed to recognize what would happen if there are only two candidates. There are two choices on what the new law could and should do in that case. It could declare that the election- the one that actually elects the candidate- be held during "the first nonpartisan election," unless there is an actual tie- exactly 50% for each in which case they'd go on to November. Or the names could be left off the "primary" ballot- since it's just a waste of paper and ink since it won't determine anything anyway- and let the actual election to be held in November.

But, this being Kaua`i, a third choice was selected and now, for no particular reason, the two candidates for PA- incumbent Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and challenger Deputy County Attorney Justin Kollar- will appear on the ballot in both August and September.

Which means that there are no meaningful Kaua`i-only, non-partisan races whatsoever on the ballot in August. Although there are partisan Democratic primary elections for US senate and house of representatives, the races for council and prosecuting attorney will appear on the ballot even though the results are moot and all will go on to November.

The same will be true for any future mayoral election and for council races if districting is ever implemented.

Kaua`i has always been "A Separate Kingdom" and, when it comes to writing our laws, a separate reality too.

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