Political ads can carry absentee applications but not voter registration ones

A glitch in state law allows candidates to attach absentee ballot applications but not voter registration forms to their campaign materials.

A glitch in state law allows candidates to attach absentee ballot applications but not voter registration forms to their campaign materials.

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That puzzles West Hawaii resident Cheryl King, who questioned mailers sent out by the American Comeback Committee Hawaii political action group supporting GOP gubernatorial candidate James “Duke” Aiona.

“I don’t see any difference between a registration for an absentee ballot or a voter registration form,” King said. “There shouldn’t be campaign literature attached to either. It’s an attempt to manipulate the voter.”

King also worried the practice could increase voter fraud.

Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for the state Office of Elections, said the difference in the law is “not a loophole.” Quidilla said the Elections Office looks upon candidate and issue campaigns as a partner in the process of engaging voters.

Quidilla said he’s had a few questions about the practice through the years. This year, however, the PAC supporting Aiona seems to be the only one using the applications, but other candidates in other parties also have done it in the past, he said.

He said the restriction on the voter registration forms dates back to the days when individuals were recruited to be deputy voter registrars in an attempt to get people registered to vote. Because the deputies were de facto agents of a state office, they were forbidden from campaigning as they registered voters, he said.

The Elections Office would be more inclined to remove the prohibition on the voter registration forms than adding it to the absentee ballot applications. That could be part of the office’s legislative package in the future.

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“It’s a part of the get-out-vote effort. It’s a means of engaging voters,” Quidilla said. “What motivates people are candidates, issues. … It’s part of a larger effort to engage citizens.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.