HILO — A ballot initiative making county boards nonpartisan was advanced Friday by the Charter Commission.
The amendment, which passed first reading on a unanimous vote, would remove the current requirement that no more than a bare majority of members on the county’s various boards and commissions shall belong to the same political party.
“It’s pretty straightforward,” said Commissioner Michelle Galimba, who sponsored CA-28.
Margaret Wille, a former County Council member from Waimea, agreed with the measure. Wille said she’s heard people who want to be on a board told by others, “Don’t tell them you’re a Democrat. You’ll never get on.”
“It’s very difficult to get a diverse board … male and female,” Wille said in testimony to the commission.
It’s not that Democrats are unwelcome — It’s just that there are so many of them.
It’s unknown how many Democrats there actually are, because Hawaii is one of 19 states that don’t require voters to choose a party when registering to vote, according to University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato. Instead, those who want to run for partisan office in Hawaii, such as for the state Legislature, governor or Congress, join their local and state party.
But, when required to pick a partisan primary ballot, 247,932 chose Democratic ballots and 32,6107 chose Republican in the 2018 primary, an indication of party strength. The overwhelming majority of Democrats in the state Legislature is another.
Commissioner Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, a former County Council member, said it doesn’t make a lot of sense having the boards and commissions partisan when the County Council and mayor are not.
“The thing is, basically the issues at the county level are not political policy issues as much as services,” Leithead Todd said after the meeting. “Fix the potholes, put toilet paper in the park restrooms.”