March 27, 2002
Office of the Mayor
200 South High Street
Wailuku, HI 96793
808-270-7855, fax: 808-270-7870
The Charter Commission's proposed amendements to the Maui County Charter regarding signature requirements for ballot initiatives are improvements upon the current Charter, but still leave Maui's requirements 20% more stringent that most stringent of the 50 States for Statute initiatives. Maui's requirements for Charter Amendment initiatives are left unamended, and are orders of magnitude more stringent that the most stringent State. The severe limits on the powers of Statute initiatives are left unamended, and represent a paternalistic attitude toward the public, with an implied trust of politicians greater than the trust of the voters.
It is recommended that the proposed Charter amendment be changed so that Maui sets its initiative requirements to those typical of the other States, with:
- A one-year circulation period,
- A signature requirement of 8% of the actual voters in the last general election for statute initiatives,
- A signature requirement of 10% of the actual voters in the last general election for Charter amendment initiatives,
- Deletion of the restriction on the powers of initiatives, so that any statute which may be enacted by the County Council may also be enacted through citizen's ballot initiative.
I wish to testify the Commission's proposed amendments to Articles 11 and 12 of the County Charter:
PROPOSAL FOURTEEN - REDUCE THE SIGNATURE REQUIREMENTS FOR INITIATIVE AND RECALL.
It is gratifying to see the reduced levels of stringency proposed for signature gathering in Articles 11 and 12. The reduction in the number of signatures from 20% of registered voters to 10% of actual voters is equivalent, because voter turnouts have been around 67% in recent years, to a change from 20% to about 6.7% = 67% of 10% of registered voters, a threefold decrease in stringency.
Also, the increase in the time to gather signatures from 30 to 90 days is another threefold decrease in stringency. In terms of the fraction of voters per day of signatures required, the combined effect is a 9-fold reduction in stringency.
Where does this put Maui County with respect to the signature requirements of other places with ballot initiatives? As described in my testimony of January 15, Maui was 35 times more stingent than California. The proposed change would make Maui only 4 times as stringent. We must ask, however, why Maui should be 4 times as stringent as California?
For the Charter Commission to recommend these signature gathering requirements, there needs to be some explanation of why signature number and circulation period should be in the 78th and 96th percentiles of stringency compared to the States. I do not see any reason for this excessive stringency. If the Charter were amended to put Maui exactly mid-way in the range of stringencies among the states, it would
Article 11 Section 11-1.3 is repealed.
Article 11 Section 11-3.2 is amended to read:
"Such petitions must be signed by registered voters numbering not less than eight percent (8%) of the number of votes cast for Mayor in the last regular Mayoral election."
Article 11 Section 11-4.1 is amended to read:
"1. Within one (1) year after the filing with the clerk of the affidavit described in Section 11-2, all papers forming an initiative petition shall be assembled and filed with the county clerk as one instrument."
Article 14 Section 14-1.3 is amended to read:
"3. By petition presented to the council, signed by registered voters numbering not less than ten percent (10%) of the number of votes cast for Mayor in the last regular Mayoral election, setting forth the proposed amendments."
Dr. Lee Altenberg
Lee Altenberg, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Information and Computer Sciences, University of Hawai`i at Manoa
Address: 2605 Lioholo Place, Kihei, Maui, HI 96753-7118
Phone: (808) 875-0745, Fax: (808) 875-0348