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Voters support change in council election system

By Staff | May 20, 2010

Should County Council members be elected solely by residents of their districts?   

Maui voters say “yes!”

In a recent poll conducted by the Honolulu firm QMark Research, 65 percent of registered Maui County voters backed a proposed amendment to the County Charter that would change the selection of County Council members to nine single member districts based upon population and voted by the residents of each district.

One of the biggest criticisms of the current system — in which residents vote on every seat countywide — is that candidates can win the job but lose in their district, and the large Central Maui population has too much voting power.

In the 2008 general election, for example, the races of Mike Molina vs. Kai Nishiki, Wayne Nishiki vs. Don Couch and Sol Kaho‘ohalahala vs. John Ornellas were close in their districts, with the challengers earning decisive wins at some of the polling sites.

Overall, 61 percent of county residents support a change to the single member district system used on the Big Island and Honolulu, while support in Hana and Molokai is even higher at 69 and 74 percent, respectively.

Opposition is low — just 17 percent of registered county voters.

Conducted from April 20 to May 1 with a sample of 503 Maui County residents, the poll was commissioned by the West Maui Charter Working Group.

The bipartisan group of West Side community members wants to promote democratic values and administrative efficiency in county government by recommending changes to the County Charter. Members include Gordon Cockett, Dr. George Lavenson, Dr. Flo Wiger and Nell Woods.

West Maui Councilwoman Jo Anne Johnson recently introduced the working group’s proposal for a single member district council member system, and it’s currently before the Committee of the Whole.

Under the system, every ten years, a nonpartisan charter

commission would be appointed to create nine single member districts of equal population for each of the nine council seats.

Is it time to reform the County Council’s election system? Track this proposal and help Johnson get this question on the general election ballot.