When the Maui County Charter Commission assembled last year to vet reforms aimed at improving local governance, some members identified misspellings of Hawaiian words in the county charter.

Maui County locator map

But as of now, unless Maui county voters approve a charter amendment to make changes to the county’s constitutional document, errors ranging from improper punctuation to outdated statutes cannot be fixed.

For commissioners, a charter amendment seemed like a lot of trouble to correct a few misspelled words. Soon voters will have the chance to decide whether the county clerk should be allowed to make non-substantive changes to charter statutes to fix mistakes and make them easier to read.

The clerk would also be able to delete provisions that have expired or are otherwise no longer in effect.

Maui County voters are being asked to decide whether the county clerk should be allowed to fix simple mistakes in government documents as well as be restricted from some political activity. Marina Riker/Civil Beat/2022

Charter amendment proposal No. 8 is an amalgamation of several housekeeping revisions pertaining to the office of the county clerk. It’s one of 13 questions slated to appear on the Nov. 8 election ballot that grants voters of Maui, Molokai and Lanai the chance to redefine the responsibilities of their local government.

The provision that would permit the clerk to make immaterial changes to the charter is modeled after charters in cities on the mainland, including Albuquerque and Portland.

Another provision would prohibit the county clerk and deputy county clerk from actively participating in political management or campaigns for federal, state or county elective office.

Attorney Lance Collins, who resigned as chairman of the Charter Commission last December to accept an appointment as a per diem district court judge, said keeping politics out of the clerk’s office has long been customary. The proposal would make it the law.

“In all of the decades that I’ve been involved in county governance issues, the clerk’s office has always been really good about not participating in political campaigns and it’s been mostly on scout’s honor,” Collins said.

“The purpose of putting this in the charter is elections in other places have been hotly contested and politicized, especially after the last presidential election,” he added. “This isn’t presently a problem that anyone’s aware of, but if we actually make it part of the charter then there won’t be problems later on.”

Collins said to his knowledge campaign donations from the clerk’s office have never been monitored.

Dick Mayer, a retired UH Maui College professor who has been active in the charter amendment promulgation process, said he supports the measure as a way to help ensure that the clerk’s office remains politically impartial.

“The county clerk is the one who runs elections and they should not be able in any way to favor any candidate by putting certain names first or making things more available to a certain candidate,” Mayer said. “They should be totally neutral.”

The proposal would also clarify the duties of the clerk.

If voters approve question eight on the ballot, it would cost taxpayers less than $100,000 to implement, according to a financial analysis by County Auditor Lance Taguchi.

Eleven of the 13 proposals came from the Charter Commission, which is tasked every 10 years with reviewing the county’s constitutional document and finding possible ways to improve it. The County Council, meanwhile, put forward the other two questions that ask if voters want to create community water authorities and allow employees to work remotely to combat climate change. The council can put forward proposals during elections every two years.

Voters are expected to receive their ballots in the mail by mid-October.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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