Cheating allegations at Capitol during same-sex marriage public hearing
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - UPDATE:
Hawaii News Now has confirmed with House Judiciary committee Chair, Representative Karl Rhoads, only individuals who signed up to testify will be allowed to address lawmakers.
"If you're the one who signed up, you're the one who gets to testify -- not somebody else," Rhoads confirmed Monday morning.
"We're encouraging people to testify, but we want people who played by the rules and signed up when they were supposed to, to be the ones to testify. We're more than happy to hear your testimony," Rhoads said.
According to Rhoads, he and fellow House Finance committee Chair, Representative Sylvia Luke, have allowed a few exceptions -- either because they didn't notice or to grant permission to a close family member to speak on another's behalf.
Rhoads' clarification comes after several public filibustering techniques, including speaking on another's behalf, have been widely disseminated on Facebook and in email correspondence.
New Hope Metro's Senior Pastor Elwin Ahu posted this message on his Facebook page Sunday:
"We had an amazing week and were able to extend the hearing two additional days! We listened to testimony on Thursday, for 14 consecutive hours, Friday, for 13 hours and Saturday, for 14 hours! Thank you to all of you who called out the troops when the lines started to look sparse. ... WE NEED AT LEAST 300-500 PEOPLE TO SHOW UP AND TESTIFY ON MONDAY TO ENSURE 2ND READING OCCURS ON TUES AND 3RD READING OCCURS ON THURSDAY, THE DAY OF OUR RALLY. THEY MUST SHOW UP AT 11 AM AND BE PREPARED TO HANG AROUND UNTIL THEY ARE CALLED TO TESTIFY."
"PLEASE make the final pitch! Anyone who submitted testimony and who received a number MUST SHOW UP ON MONDAY TO TESTIFY! If they cannot make it, please find someone to show up on that person's "behalf." So 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! If you organize people from your churches who can stay at the capitol all day and "read testimony" on behalf of others, that may be a start.
I would suggest you all go to the testimony on-line and search for anyone you know and personally ask him/her to show up.. Most of our testimony was collected at the rally so we need people to follow up!"
Hawaii News Now has reached out to Pastor Ahu, a former state judge, for comment but has not heard back from him.
Suspicious activity during Saturday night's public hearing on a controversial same-sex marriage bill has prompted officials to change their procedures.
Capitol officials confirm they're investigating who took a list of registered names and numbers from the check-in desk Saturday.
Multiple sources say officials suspect the list was used to provide people who already testified with a new speaking number using another individual's name. They believe it may have also been used to allow people who had never signed up a chance to testify using someone else's registration number.
Carolyn Tanaka, the Director of Communications for the Hawai'i House of Representatives issued this statement: "We noticed that during the check-in process there were discrepancies in matching registration numbers with some of the individuals checking in to testify. In order to ensure transparency and fairness in the public hearing process we refined our procedures by tightening up our identification requirements."
Officials say it's unclear how many people may have been involved. Testifiers will now have to present a photo ID when they initially check-in and right before they testify at the podium.
Lawmakers have already heard 41 hours of testimony on SB 1, the "Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act of 2013".
Experts say there has been a clear public filibuster attempt.
"It's a delaying tactic. They're trying to either bring more attention to the issue or slow the process down and they do this by talking," described Colin Moore, a political science professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
"The hope is that you can slow the process down, get them to really think about this and see that there are many other people who are opposed to this – and perhaps members of the legislature will now become less comfortable supporting this," explained Moore. "Is it likely to prevent gay marriage from being enacted? In this case, I think that's unlikely – but it does bring a lot more attention to the issue. I think in some cases it's more effective than say protests, because citizens are able to tell their own story," Moore said.
Representative Bob McDermott doesn't believe there's been an organized effort to cheat, but says he and other lawmakers have purposely prolonged the hearing to ensure every voice is heard.
"There's been a deliberate attempt by myself and Representative Ward to make sure that everybody who signed up gets to testify. When you have 5,000 people sign up you can't expect number 5,000 to wait for three days straight in the lobby to speak. It's not practical. So there's been a deliberate attempt to let everyone who has signed up speak – and you know what, we work for them. Who cares if it inconveniences us?" Rep. McDermott said.
"I've never seen this," McDermott said in response to the thousands of people who have flooded the Capitol auditorium in the last week – many of whom are participating in the legislative process for the very first time.
"We'll have to see if the Legislature views these local people, local people, as ignorant peasants or citizens who haven't been shown a compelling reason why to change their societal norms," McDermott said, adding if he was running the hearing he would have shut it down days ago.
"The overwhelming testimony – I'd say it's pretty clear, let's just table this. Close it down. There's no public sentiment for us to move. The governor called this, that doesn't mean we have to do it," McDermott said.
Hawai'i News Now asked the House Judiciary and Finance committee Chairs about the delay attempts Friday night – and their decision to let everyone speak, even those who were weren't present the first time their number was called.
"We hope that the fact that we're taking every testimony, and we're being very judicious and listening to everybody and we didn't want to cut off testimony should show that this is a serious issue and we take it seriously and we will go as long as we can," said Representative Sylvia Luke, who chairs the House Finance committee.
"It's part of the process. You want people to have their opinions known. I don't have any regrets, I'm tired, but I don't have any regrets," said Representative Karl Rhoads, who chairs the House Finance committee.
The public hearing continues at 11 a.m. Monday at the Capitol Auditorium with testifier #4,600. A total of 5,181 people have signed up.
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