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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 1:19 p.m., Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Online ballots offered in neighborhood boards election

News Release

Honolulu's neighborhood boards election this spring will for the first time offer voters the option of casting online ballots.

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

The biennial elections to the boards were previously held only by mail. And to save taxpayers money, ballots were not mailed out for uncontested races.

In the 2005 elections, 25 percent of the 198,405 ballots that city officials mailed out were returned.

The Neighborhood Commission Office began exploring possible use of the Internet last year, and in January the commission voted to authorize Manke to provide for the option of on-line voting in this year's board elections including uncontested races.

Honolulu Hale has teamed up with Commercial Data Systems, Inc., to make it happen. CDS created and operates the balloting system for Kids Voting Hawaii, the online program for school children to cast votes in parallel with Hawaii elections.

"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. CDS has created the software needed for this pilot program and will employ servers using encrypted voter information from the City."

This spring's elections are being held to fill 444 seats on the 32 neighborhood boards, which serve as grass roots advisory bodies for government. The boards meet monthly and board members are not paid for their service. There are 144 subdistricts within the 32 board areas.

Voting in the neighborhood board elections will work this way:

Contested races

Paper ballots will be mailed out on 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 on 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 sub-district seats.

 Uncontested races

Because they live in areas where there are no contested races, 170,000 registered voters will not receive paper ballots, but they will have the opportunity to vote online.

More than half of the seats are uncontested and of those, 62 seats have no candidates.

The voting website, www.nbvote.com, will be online and operational Feb. 21. Registered voters may visit that website to request a voter number. Votes can be cast beginning March 23 at www.nbvote.com. Registered voters include anyone who voted in last fall's elections or registered by the Jan. 16, 2007 deadline.

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

Jan. 16 was the deadline for candidates to file to run in this year's election. The deadline for voting is April 16. Results of election will be made public on May 1.

The neighborhood board system was established in 1973 to increase and assure effective citizen participation in the decisions of government. Elections are held in odd-numbered years.

For more information, see the website, www.honolulu.gov/nco or call 527-5749.