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CAMPAIGN 2010


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Confusion mars election

Some voters cross party lines while others struggle to find their polling place

By Star-Advertiser staff

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:51 a.m. HST, Sep 19, 2010


Primary election day was not without the usual assortment of glitches. At least four Oahu voting machines malfunctioned. Some voters tried to cross party lines. And others scrambled just to find the right place to cast their ballots.

With all but two of 242 precincts reporting last night, some 276,957 Hawaii voters cast votes in the primary election, representing 40.5 percent of all registered voters.

Election officials at Kaelepulu and Maunawili elementary schools in Kailua, where machines failed to work, slid ballots into a slot on the side of their malfunctioning machines, to be counted by election officials later in the day.

But such manual collection of ballots bypassed the machines' ability to detect ballots that were spoiled by voters who crossed party lines, said Sandra Takeshita, chairwoman of the Maunawili polling station.

So voters who filled out spoiled ballots that were not immediately counted by machines did not have an opportunity to cast another, valid ballot, Takeshita said.

She estimated that fewer than 100 voters had their ballots collected manually at Maunawili until a technician for Hart Intercivic repaired the machine.

As in previous primaries, this year's ballot displayed candidates from all political parties but asked voters to select just one party, then vote for candidates within that party -- and that party only -- for governor, lieutenant governor, the Legislature and Congress.

Races for the state Department of Education, Honolulu mayor, City Council and prosecutor are nonpartisan.

"The reliance is on voters to follow instructions," state election spokesman Rex Quidilla said. "Each (voting) booth includes directions on how to ensure that your vote is counted properly. Fundamentally what we're facing is that voters want to vote for candidates, and not their parties and their slate of their parties."

PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS

 

  HONOLULU COUNTY     STATEWIDE    
YEAR REG. VOTERS TURNOUT PCT. REG. VOTERS TURNOUT PCT.
1990 314,832 188,640 59.9% 436,323 276,412 63.4%
1992 304,539 172,039 56.5% 432,723 251,569 58.1%
1994 335,173 225,406 67.3% 468,739 309,700 66.1%
1996 377,287 199,201 52.8% 531,892 275,548 51.8%
1998 411,071 201,583 49.0% 582,558 291,069 50.0%
2000 439,934 189,432 43.1% 629,162 262,487 41.7%
2002 464,673 192,146 41.4% 667,679 274,517 41.1%
2004 430,285 184,860 43.0% 626,120 252,630 40.3%
2006 447,727 192,322 43.0% 655,741 276,693 42.2%
2008 450,522 167,047 37.1% 667,647 246,299 36.9%

 

Source: State Office of Elections

A representative for private contractor Hart Intercivic, which provides the machines for Hawaii election officials, refused to comment on the number of machines that malfunctioned.

Quidilla did not have a tally on how many machines malfunctioned but emphasized that "the voting never stopped."

He said some voters failed to designate a single party on their ballots or marked more than one party, causing their ballots to be rejected.

"We have to walk them through the process," Quidilla said.

Voters who did not mark a party preference still had their votes counted for nonpartisan races, Quidilla said.

It's unknown how the crossing of party lines will affect people who voted by mail-in absentee ballot, since they did not have the opportunity to recast spoiled ballots.

Meanwhile, on Maui, officials dealt with telling an estimated 300 voters that they were mistakenly assigned to the 8th House District instead of the 9th House District due to confusion over a boundary line.

They reminded registered voters in the Legends and Na Hoku subdivisions in Kahului to cast their votes at Kahului Elementary School.

Jeff Hoylman, a Republican candidate for House District 9, pointed out the error to the County Clerk's Office after running into some residents from Legends and Na Hoku who told him they were voting in District 8. But Hoylman told them their subdivisions fall in District 9.

Sixty of those 300 voters voted early by walk-in or mail-in, according to Hoylman's opponent in the primary, Democratic Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran, who received the information from the County Clerk's Office. Of the 60 voters, 42 mailed in their ballots while 18 voters were early walk-in voters. Unfortunately, ballots cast by early walk-in voters cannot be recalled, Keith-Agaran said.

As of this morning, the County Clerk's Office received 38 of the 42 mail-in voters' recast ballots.

State election officials closed 97 of 339 polling places around the state for this year's elections, citing staffing shortages and budget cuts. That left 242 polling sites: 137 on Oahu, 40 in Maui County, 48 on the Big Island and 17 in Kauai County. Oahu lost the most sites, at 75.

Trisha Shipman-Lameier and her husband went to three polling stations before finding the right place to vote. "It's just been a nightmare," she said.

First, they went to Manoa Elementary, but they did not see her name on the list. So the two then went to the University of Hawaii Laboratory School, where they last voted before moving. There, the couple was told they were not registered to vote.

After checking the address and making a call, the poll worker told Shipman-Lameier they should be voting at Noelani Elementary School. At Noelani, a poll worker sent them back to Manoa Elementary.

After the couple returned to Manoa, poll workers made another call and found that the two were on a special list and finally let them vote.

"We almost gave up, but then it was the people at Noelani who said, 'No, no, we want you to vote,'" she said. "And it's our right as citizens to vote and we kind of feel kind of upset when they say you're not registered and you know you're registered.

"I feel like I've done my duty for today," she said.

Larry Meacham, chairman of the polling station at Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School, said the most common problem was voter confusion over the ballot.

He said the box for party affiliation was redundant, and placing parties on both sides of the ballot and having nonpartisan races in different columns was "needlessly confusing." When a voter failed to check a ballot properly, either by not checking the party or voting for more than one party, the machine rejected the ballot.

Star-Advertiser staff writers Rosemarie Bernardo, Gregg K. Kakesako, Dan Nakaso and Rob Shikina contributed to this story.

 






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