KIHEI – “The ballot title “Maui: Voter Initiative: Genetically Engineered Organisms” is misleading, and should be corrected. Specifically, the title, “Genetically Engineered Organisms,” might cause a voter who is either in favor or against adoption of the initiative measure to cast a ballot contrary to their desires.
This statement was released today by the Earned Media Coordinator of the group, Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez.
He added, “Hawaii law mandates that “[t]he essential requirement is that the ballot not be misleading. ”Kahalekai v. Doi, 60 Haw. 324, 333, 590 P.2d 543, 550 (1979) (citing Young v. Byrne, 364 A.2d 47 (N.J. Super. Law Div.1976)).
“For example, a voter who believes the initiative is misguided, bad policy, preempted by state law, would hurt Maui County farmers, or simply believes that GEOs are beneficial, could read the title “Genetically Engineered Organisms” and erroneously cast a “yes” vote because she or he favors GEOs. By the same token, a voter who is in favor of the initiative and reads the title “Genetically Engineered Organisms” may erroneously cast a “no” vote because she or he is against GEOs. Thus, the ballot title as presently phrased is misleading and deceptive towards both proponents and opponents equally. In fact, the proponents of the initiative have stated publicly that the ballot title, in its current form is misleading.
“Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban contacted the Maui County Clerk as well as the state’s Chief Election Officer to request that they correct the misleading ballot title language, but they have not done so. As a result, the Citizens Committee, a Hawaii nonprofit group, along with other concerned Maui County registered voters have filed a lawsuit in Hawaii’s Second Circuit Court requesting a correction to the current misleading ballot title. We are requesting that the court declare that the ballot title is misleading and court order the County Clerk and the state’s Chief Elections Officer to revise the ballot title as follows: “MAUI: Voter initiative: prohibiting cultivation or reproduction of genetically engineered organisms.” We believe it is the voters of Maui County who will be served by this suggested change regardless of whether they favor or oppose the initiative.
“In addition, the Maui Charter requires that the voters have at least 90 days prior to a general election to consider the ballot title and summary. The 90-day minimum provides the voters with sufficient time to review the ballot title and summary. Furthermore, in this case, the 90 days would afford voters with the opportunity to inform themselves about a very complicated initiative that, if passed, would have very serious consequences for Maui County. Under the Charter, once the County Council declines to adopt a proposed ordinance, County Clerk must “submit the proposed ordinance to the voters of the county at the next general election; provided that, if the next general election is scheduled to occur within ninety (90) days, the county clerk shall submit the proposed or referred ordinance to the voters of the county at the succeeding general election.” The County Clerk missed the deadline by nearly two weeks and in doing so deprived the voters of the time to properly review and consider the ballot title and question. Therefore, we are also asking the court to rule that the County Clerk can only submit the proposed ordinance to the voters of the county at “the succeeding general election,” which is scheduled for November 8, 2016.”