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Ballot shortages at 19 precincts delay election results

By Gregg K. Kakesako & Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 11:18 p.m. HST, Nov 6, 2012

Paper ballots were rushed out to 19 Hawaii polling places that ran out this evening, forcing polls to remain open beyond the scheduled 6 p.m. closing time. 

Election results were delayed nearly three hours. At about 8 p.m., five polls remained open.

Election officials said people who were in line at 6 p.m. would still be allowed to vote. Long lines were reported at single electronic voting machine at some polling places.

The polling places that have run out included Hahaione Elementary, Holy Trinity Church in Hawaii Kai, August Ahrens Elementary in Waipahu, Waianae Intermediate and Kainalu Elementary in Kailua, Wilson Elementary, Kaimuki High, Salt Lake Elementary, Maili Elementary, Leilehua Elementary, Manana Elementary, Leilahua High, Kalaheo High, Hokulani Elementary, Mililani District Park and Kaleiopuu Elementary.

Rex Quidilla, state elections office spokesman, said higher than expected turnout and underestimations about the number of ballots needed at each polling place caused the shortage.

But voter turnout was below the turnout in the 2008 presidential election. In the fourth turnout, about 62 percent of the 702,765 registered voters cast ballots this year compared to 66 percent in 2008. A final turnout count will not be available until sometime Wednesday morning.

Earlier in the night, Quidilla urged people to remain in line to vote.

“We are rushing to get ballots to them,” he said. “We can only surmise that we are testing the patience of some voters and we apologize.”

At Waianae Intermediate, Mary-Elizabeth Natividad, 32, of Waianae, said the line to vote at the electronic voting machine was growing long and some people were leaving without voting.

“People are actually walking away,” she said. “They’re not going to get to vote.”

Earlier, voting at the state’s 233 precincts had been proceeding “fairly smoothly” as island voters cast their ballot for president, mayor and several congressional races in today's general election.

Quidilla said there have been minor problems for voters who didn’t participate in the Aug. 11 primary.

This is the first time they are voting following reapportionment, which takes place every 10 years, and “some of their polling places have been changed,” he added. 

At 7 a.m. almost all of the 142 polling places on Oahu; 40 in Hawaii County; 35 on Maui; 16 on Kaui opened on time.

The only exception was in Central Oahu where a precinct at Mililani High School opened 10 minutes late because of “a misunderstanding” during the initial setting up process, said Quidilla.

There also was a minor hitch in the 23rd District at Precinct 4 at Noelani Elementary School with the ballot scanner.

Because the scanner wouldn’t start up, precinct workers had voters place their ballots in a sealed bin to be scanned once the machine was fixed.

Quidilla said “there are procedures in place to address problems like the faulty scanner.”

State elections especially are concerned about operations in Hawaii County where they took over the operations after losing confidence in the ability of County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi.

Thirteen precincts opened late during the August primary because of missteps, which were blamed on Kawauchi. That led to Gov. Neil Abercrombie to extend voting hours in Hawaii County by 90 minutes. It was the first time since 1966 that polling hours were extended. Some polling places on Oahu had their hours extended in 1966 because of bad weather. The delays — up to one hour at two Hawaii County polling places — eroded public confidence in the system,

State Ballot Operations Section Head Lori Tomczyk was dispatched to Hawaii County to oversee the operations from a control and counting center in the Hilo State Office Building. County Clerk Kawauchi is still responsible for voter registration and absentee ballots.

Quidilla said all of Hawaii County’s 40 polling places opened on time and without any incidents.

Tomczyk said there were only a “few small issues” in Hawaii County, but they were quickly resolved.

“Everything appears to be moving and progressing well,” she added.

On Kauai, County Elections Administrator Lyndon Yoshioka said there seemed to be more activity at Kauai’s 16 polling places based on the calls his office were getting.

“Other than that,” Yoshioka added, “everything appears to be okay and rather routine.”

On Maui, voter turnout appeared to be brisk by mid-morning which made Maui County Clerk Jeff Kuwata hopeful for a better turnout than the August primary. Maui had the lowest turnout at 30.6 percent, followed by Kauai’s 39.2 percent

On Oahu, the line at Noelani Elementary School cafeteria snaked down the walkway while more than three dozen voters stood in a light drizzle. More than 4,100 people are registered to vote in this precinct.

Lydia Alvarez was first in line with her coffee mug and an umbrella at 6:30 a.m. as polls workers rushed to complete preparations.

Alvarez said she was celebrating her birthday by casting a paper ballot early so she would be able to open her print shop in Kalihi on time. She has been voting since turning 18 in 1974.

Also voting early arriving a few minutes after Alvarez was Neil Asaoka who has been voting at Noelani for the past 40 years.

The local construction executive said he wanted to vote early so “I wouldn’t be sidetracked during the day.”

University of Hawaii graduate students Charles Nguyen and Damiano Mauro cast their early ballots at Noelani for Barrack Obama for president and Kirk Caldwell, who once served Manoa as a state House member, for Honolulu mayor.

Mauro said his vote for Obama was because he believed he is “the least dangerous person.”

Nguyen said Obama “saved our bacon during the last four years,” especially in the area of economic recovery.

Mauro said he believes that former Gov. Ben Cayetano came off as “too aggressive” in his bid to become Honolulu mayor and that rail is “the next logical step” for Oahu.

Charles Lawrence, a Noelani voter for the past four years, said he voted for Caldwell because “the rail issue is important to me. I think we do need rail.”

There are 705,660 people registered to vote in today’s general election.

The polls close at 6 p.m. The first results printout will be released once the final polling place is closed, and the state is scheduled to begin releasing results every hour starting at about 7 p.m.

There are 233 polling places across the state, nine fewer than in the last election in 2010. About one third of the voters statewide have been assigned a different polling place this year because of reapportionment, which takes place every ten years.

In the Aug. 11 primary election, 42.3 percent, or 290,653 of the state’s 687,500 registered voters, cast ballots.

Sixty-six percent of registered Hawaii voters cast their ballots in the 2008 general election — the last presidential election four years ago.

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