By a large majority — 61 percent to 25 percent — Hawaii voters do not want to raise the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices from 70 to 80.
By an even larger margin — 70 percent to 13 percent — voters also want to have the names of nominees for judges and justices released to the public.
But voters are torn about whether the state should allow the use of public money for private preschool programs. Forty-five percent oppose the idea, 40 percent support it and 12 percent are unsure.
Those numbers are from The Civil Beat Poll, conducted by Merriman River Group. We surveyed 1,055 registered voters statewide Sept. 11-14. The poll sample included 75 percent land lines and 25 percent cell phones and has a margin of error of 3 percent.
The Hawaii Supreme Court in mid-2014: Paula Nakayama, Richard Pollack, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Michael Wilson and Sabrina McKenna.
Civil Beat did not survey voters on question No. 2 asking for the use of special purpose revenue bonds for agricultural projects, or on question No. 5 asking for the use of special purpose revenue bonds to improve dams and reservoirs. Neither issue attracted opposition as the legislation moved through the Hawaii Legislature this spring.
That is not the case, however, with the other three constitutional amendments.
Question No. 1: Disclosure of Nominees
The state’s Judicial Selection Commission amended its rules in 2011 to publicly release the names of judicial nominees when they are submitted to the governor or chief justice. If the this ballot question is approved, mandatory disclosure would be part of the Hawaii constitution.
The issue boils down to transparency versus confidentiality, and voters surveyed by Civil Beat favor transparency. The measure is widely favored across demographic categories, including political.
In fact, those calling themselves liberal, moderate or conservative or Democrat, independent or Republican agreed in high percentages that question No. 1 deserves a “yes” vote.
Question No. 3: Retirement Age of Judges
The argument in favor of raising the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices from 70 to 80 is that many are more than capable of continuing to serve with distinction. The counter-argument says the bench benefits by having fresher faces.
Voters surveyed by Civil Beat are clear on this question: Don’t raise the age. For the most part, the same people who support releasing the names of judicial nominees oppose changing the retirement age.
Voters’ gender, age, ethnicity and income level didn’t matter on this issue.
Supporters, starting with Gov. Neil Abercrombie, say the amendment is critical to establishing an early education system here and could expand access to preschool for thousands of 4-year-olds who miss out because their families can’t afford it.
Opponents, including state Sen. David Ige, who defeated Abercrombie to become the Democratic nominee for governor, and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, don’t want state funds going to private providers. They argue the proposal is ill-conceived and expensive.
As noted above, voters surveyed by Civil Beat are divided on this issue, with a slight plurality opposing the ballot question. Those who identify as liberal say they will vote “yes” while moderates and conservatives say they will vote “no.”
Fifty percent of voters belonging to union households oppose question No. 4 with just 38 percent in support. And, the more money one makes, the less likely one is to vote “yes.”
Question No. 4 faces another hurdle besides opinion polls: Even if more voters start shifting toward approving it, passage requires 50 percent plus one of all ballots cast. Blank votes effectively count as “no” votes.