Hawaii voters have overwhelmingly voted against holding a state constitutional
convention.

Some 69 percent of voters have cast ballots opposing a convention, compared
to 24 percent who support it, according to election results that include all but
one precinct. About 7 percent of voters left the question blank, which will
effectively count as a “no” vote.

Residents are given the chance to vote on whether to hold a state constitutional
convention every 10 years. The last convention was in 1978 and ushered in
major environmental protections, created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and
term limits for governor, as part of the three dozen amendments that were
ultimately approved by voters.

But voters have since been weary about holding another one. Opponents spent
heavily this year to defeat the measure, arguing that there is too much at stake
to open the Constitution to revision, particularly when it comes to protections
for labor, the environment and Native Hawaiians. Some have also worried that
money and special interests could unduly influence a convention.

A ballot measure committee, called Preserve Our Hawaii, spent more than
$600,000 in recent weeks on advertising urging residents to vote “no” on the
measure. The coalition comprised of powerful unions, business interests,
environmentalists and others raised at least $740,000 in their effort to defeat it,
campaign spending records show.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association donated $290,000, with other
contributions coming from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii
Fire Fighters Association, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and
National Education Association.

While contributions came heavily from unions, the coalition was also made up of
the Hawaii Democratic Party, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Sierra Club
Hawaii and the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, among
others.

The groundswell of opposition from organizations that could stand to lose
something if the state Constitution was reopened for revision mirrors efforts
made the last time the question was posed to voters. In 2008, groups opposing
a convention spent $1.4 million, according to the Hawaii Campaign Spending
Commission. By contrast, ballot measure committees supporting a convention
spent just $6,000. The convention was defeated 62 percent to 34 percent, with
about 4 percent of voters leaving the question blank.

Supporters of the measure this year argued that the state Constitution was
meant to be periodically revised and that a convention could help restore trust
in government and provide an opportunity to push forward reforms the
Legislature has been reluctant to take up, such as campaign finance reform and
establishing term limits for state legislators. However, there wasn’t an organized
effort to drum up support for a constitutional convention.

A simple majority of votes is required for the measure to pass. Blank votes are
counted as “no” votes.

Link to full article: Star Advertiser: Hawaii voters soundly rejecting constitutional convention