Legislature just slashed the transparency of Hawaii elections


The Hawaiian Legislature’s precipitous rejection of Governor David Ige’s veto on Senate Election Communications Bill 404 is poor policy-making. SB 404 will reduce the transparency of elections in Hawaii and further erode public confidence in Hawaii’s political process and our elected officials.

SB 404, as it made its way through the 2021 legislature, received relatively little attention; it was an administrative maintenance measure. The legislature took the opportunity, against the testimony of good government groups and oversight agencies, to amend SB 404 to eliminate disclosures that must be made by candidates and reduce disclosures that must be made. by special interest groups, or PAC and SuperPAC.

The result of the removal of the legislature’s veto on SB 404 is that the public will not know who is trying to influence their vote – which candidate or interest group is telling them to vote for or against a candidate in the critical period. just before an election.

Why is SB 404 important?

To understand the impact of SB 404, you must first know what electoral communication is: an advertisement on television, radio, by mail, in the written press or on social networks asking you – the voter – to vote for or against a candidate.

Under the original Election Communications Act, candidates and special interest groups were required to make statements within 24 hours of fulfilling a contract or when the advertisement was scheduled to run, if it had been made in the 30 days preceding a primary election or in the 60 days preceding a general election and provided that an aggregate threshold of $ 2,000 had been reached.

Disclosures were to continue to be filed within this timeframe once the $ 2,000 threshold was reached, regardless of additional amounts spent. These disclosures included the person or entity making the expenditure, from whom the contributions were received, and whether applicants supported or opposed the advertisement.

While there were other disclosure requirements for candidates and special interest groups, none were as contemporary as the 24-hour election communications disclosure requirement during the critical period – 30 days. before a primary election and 60 days before a general election – when campaign communications are at their peak and most prolific in trying to secure and influence the public vote. This 24-hour disclosure requirement provides maximum transparency and accountability for the public, applicants, and special interest groups.

Governor David Ige holds a press conference announcing the bills he was going to veto forcing the legislature to a special session.
Governor David Ige held a press conference on July 6 to discuss the bills he was vetoing. Cory Lum / Civil Beat / 2021

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