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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A new procedure is speeding up the testimony process at the Capitol, as lawmakers make their way through a fourth, and possibly final, day of a public hearing on a controversial same-sex marriage bill.
As Hawaii News Now was the first to report, lawmakers were forced to change their ID process after a registration list was taken from the check-in table Saturday night. Officials believe the list was used to provide people who already testified with a new speaking number using another individual's name. They say it may have also been used to allow people who had never signed up a chance to testify using someone else's registration number.
"We do know that somebody took the list and they were using that to encourage other people to give misinformation on who they are. Clearly, when we cracked down on checking ID's that was stopped," said House Finance committee Chair Sylvia Luke, who confirms lawmakers have suspected something wasn't right since Thursday.
"On the first day we noticed some inconsistencies, because there was maybe about a dozen people that came up to the podium and said there number and it was a totally different name -- but because it was happening so frequently, we thought it was a glitch in our system," explained Luke.
Since then officials say they've been made aware of several organized efforts to circumvent the rules, like a Facebook post from New Hope Metro's Senior Pastor Elwin Ahu telling people "if they cannot make it, please find someone to show up on that person's behalf", it goes on to say "for example, if John Doe has a number but cannot testify because he's at work, he has Jane Smith show up on his behalf and read his testimony. Jane is not replacing John's testimony with her own but is reading his testimony to the group in order to waste time!"
Lawmakers say that will not be allowed.
"5,000 people signed up and we want to give opportunity to everybody. If people are swapping numbers and allowing people who didn't even sign up to testify -- we could go for weeks and weeks, and I don't think that's what everyone wants," Luke said.
Hawaii News Now reached out to Senior Pastor Ahu for comment, but still has not heard back from him.
Officials confirm only people with a valid registration number and ID will be allowed to address lawmakers. Testifiers will now have to show ID at the check-in table and again right before they step up to the podium to speak.
Representative Marcus Oshiro says he has "grave concerns" about the decision to limit testimony to only those who are on the registration list -- saying it challenges the integrity of the process.
"Right now, we're facing a bit of a crisis because people are not able to testify on behalf of their family or their friend or their parent or grandparent who may have gone back to the neighbor islands or those who've gone back to work," said Oshiro, adding that it was especially troubling given that Linda Schatz, wife of Senator Brian Schatz, was allowed to testify on his behalf, and even Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa had her testimony ready by proxy.
"People will have an opinion based upon the perception they may have on the process. So the process has to be beyond above board, transparent and fair to all people -- whether you're for this bill or against this bill, it's important because given the heightened emotional state of both proponents and opponents you want to make sure that this is a process that will maintain the integrity of the legislative hearing process, the legislative decision making process, so that people can participate and engage in this dialogue," Oshiro said, after setting up a table in the auditorium lobby where people could ask him questions about the procedure.
Opponents and supporters may not see eye-to-eye on the issue, but those who spoke to Hawaii News Now, say any cheating that may have been going on isn't right.
"t's uncool because I've been down here seven days straight -- since last Monday, now this Monday -- I'm finally getting into the door so I'm just kind of upset about that," Kenvee Daniel-Parker said after hearing about the suspicious activity.
Lauren Schubert says she has no problem having to show her ID more than once.
"I think it allows for more orderly testimony, more systematic and it gets everybody in to testify -- rather than how it's been, where it's been very chaotic and we've seen people go up multiple times," Schubert said.
Officials confirm there have been no incidents today with registration or IDs, but they say there's no estimate on how many people may have been involved before their new procedure went into place late Saturday night.