Battle escalates over HSTA election results, redo

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A battle is escalating between public school teachers and its union, Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Election results that were nullified are now being questioned by the teachers who say they won the election.

Board members with HSTA voted to void the results because of complaints that some teachers never got their ballots.

But some candidates, among them Corey Rosenlee who is running for union president, say everyone that wanted to vote did so.

Rosenlee, who’s also a board member, says the results show he won by more than 150 votes and should be president-elect.

Rosenlee and two other candidates say the only reason board members nullified the results is because they didn’t like who won. They say if another election is held, they will try to stop it by going to court.

HSTA held an election over a two-week period last month asking teachers to vote for union leaders either by email or regular paper ballots.

“Everyone that called and said they didn’t get a ballot received one and in fact this election, compared to the last statewide race, actually had more teachers participate,” Rosenlee said.

Rosenlee said the election committee certified the results, but the board then turned around and nullified them, which is a conflict of interest because some of them are also running for office.

“What happened here is our election committee is unbiased and they certified the race, but many of the people that were deciding to approve the certification themselves were on the ballot or they heavily campaigned and they didn’t like the results,” Rosenlee said.

Joan Lewis, current vice president and Rosenlee’s opponent for the president’s seat, says the board followed the rules. “Only the board can certify the election and the board did not certify the election,” she said.

As for board members wanting a different result as the reason for having another election, she says that’s an insult to all the board members who are teachers themselves.

“Somehow, after years of service on behalf of teachers and on behalf of students, just decided to have no integrity and join effectively in a conspiracy against him and his team,” Lewis said.

The union plans to hold another election on June 2. This time teachers will have to vote in person, but Rosenlee and other candidates who feel they already own their election plan to stop that.

Rosenlee also questions having teachers vote in person over a three-hour period on a school day.

“There are teachers that have graduation that day. There are teachers that are trying to get their grades done. It’s the day right before students leave and so you’re asking a tremendous thing of our teachers,” he said.

HSTA said there will be voting locations all across the state and any teacher unable to go to a polling site can submit an absentee ballot.

Current HSTA president Wil Okabe issued the following statement:

I am extremely disappointed that some candidates running for HSTA offices have chosen to violate HSTA’s procedures and protocol with their recent public announcements. And instead, have chosen to disrespect the decision made by their fellow teachers on the HSTA board.

The Board of Directors of HSTA did not certify the results of the earlier vote because of serious discrepancies that were reported in the election and voting process. Numerous reports were provided to HSTA staff and board members that teachers did not receive their ballots either by mail or email. This included several board members who personally reported that they did not receive ballots.

In addition, potential violations in the way that candidates conducted their campaigns were also reported. And errors occurred in handling the ballots including the premature release of the email ballot count, and not giving candidates the opportunity to visually observe the vote count, which is their right according to our election rules.

A board meeting was held on May 16 to consider the certification of the vote. And after more than 12 hours of deliberation, the board felt that the election was seriously flawed. And, as is their right, the board chose to not certify the vote. And subsequently, by a 2/3-vote of 21 to 8 (out of 29), decided to hold a re-vote to help ensure that all teachers had a fair opportunity to participate in the election process.

A process for the re-vote was developed that would allow for a fair election. This includes operating voting locations across the state on June 2. In addition, any teacher that is unable to go to one of the polling locations can submit an absentee ballot. This process is similar to the system used by HSTA for contract ratification votes and has resulted in a high level of participation by teachers.

I know that this has been a difficult situation for the candidates, the HSTA board members, and all of our member teachers. And I understand the frustration felt by everyone involved. But I want to assure everyone that the HSTA board is acting in the best interests of their fellow teachers to ensure a fair election. And I encourage all of our members to participate in the upcoming re-vote on June 2.

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