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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 19, 2007

Online voting to be a first for Honolulu

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The city is inviting Honolulu residents to vote online for the first time, offering the option of casting ballots via the Internet for this year's neighborhood boards election.

"This pilot project will enable more people to participate in this year's election in a cost-effective way," said Joan Manke, executive secretary of the Neighborhood Commission, the citizens group that oversees O'ahu's 32 neighborhood boards.

The elections, held every two years, were previously held only by mail, and to save taxpayers money, ballots were not mailed out for uncontested races. In the 2005 elections, only 25 percent of the 198,405 ballots that the city mailed out were returned.

To make online voting happen, the city teamed up with Commercial Data Systems Inc. The Hawai'i company has more than 18 years' experience in providing secure online data services. The company created and operates the balloting system for Kids Voting Hawai'i, the online program that allows schoolchildren to cast votes for mock elections that parallel the real ones. "Online voting is not to be confused with electronic voting machines," Manke said. "Neighborhood board voters will be allowed to vote securely from any computer with Internet access, as opposed to the electronic voting machines used in state elections."

She said CDS has created the software needed for this pilot program and will employ servers using encrypted voter information to keep the information confidential.

This spring's elections are being held to fill 444 seats on the 32 neighborhood boards, which serve as grassroots advisory bodies for government.

Voting in the neighborhood board elections will work this way:

  • Contested races: Paper ballots will be mailed out March 23. Returning ballots must be postmarked by April 16. For contested seats, 235,000 registered voters will receive paper ballots and printed candidate profiles.

    Each paper ballot will include a voter number for those who wish to vote online. Beginning March 23, voters may "opt-in" and begin voting at www.nbvote.com.

    There are 306 candidates for 185 seats in the contested races for at-large or subdistrict seats.

  • Uncontested races: Those 170,000 registered voters in these areas will not receive paper ballots, but they will have the opportunity to vote online. More than half of the seats 259 are uncontested and of those, 62 seats have no candidates.

    The voting Web site is scheduled to be operational Wednesday. Registered voters may visit that Web site to request a voter number. Registered voters include anyone who voted in last fall's elections or registered by this year's Jan. 16 deadline.

    Candidate profiles are available online at www.honolulu.gov/nco. A street index for neighborhood board districts is also available.

    The deadline for voting is April 16. Results of the elections will be made public May 1.

    Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.