POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 15, 2012
The state Elections Office and the Hawaii County Council chairman are still trying to determine why some Hawaii island polling places opened late for Saturday's primary and how to prevent a recurrence in the general election.
Scott Nago, state chief election officer, said his office will conduct interviews with precinct chairmen to determine how many polls opened late since County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi could not provide that information Tuesday.
Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, Kawauchi's supervisor, said he spoke with her Monday and learned election workers delivered precinct cans containing poll books and other essentials to the wrong precincts, which required shuttling them to the correct precincts over long distances, resulting in delays of up to 11⁄2 hours. "It began a domino effect," he said.
Yagong has called for a special County Council meeting at 10 a.m. Monday in the Hilo Council Chambers to find out what took place and to develop a process to ensure the problems don't recur in the Nov. 6 general election.
Yagong said the deputy county clerk learned at 5:30 a.m. Saturday that the precinct can for Waikoloa was in Kona, went to pick it up and while there discovered three more cans for Kahakai, Kona Palisades and a nearby precinct.
Meanwhile, the election missteps have prompted Lorraine Inouye, former Hawaii County mayor and state senator, to challenge the election results after losing her bid for a state Denate seat to Malama Solomon by 69 votes — 0.86 percent of the vote cast.
Inouye has retained an attorney to seek a recount, which requires an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Inouye said one of the affected Kona precincts was in her district and could have affected the outcome of the election.
Kawauchi did not return a call to the Star-Advertiser.
Nago met Tuesday with Kawauchi and other county clerks in Hilo for a standard post-primary briefing. He said Kawauchi provided a "bird's-eye view" of what happened on Hawaii island Saturday but did not present sufficient detail.
"We had a meeting, and she gave us nothing in detail, so we've got to go get the information ourselves," he said.
Nago said his office will interview precinct chairmen to determine how many precincts opened late as well as other information he had hoped to receive from Kawauchi. He said he would not wait for her to conduct such a review. "She hasn't given us anything of substance anyway," he said.
Kawauchi reported voter registration poll books were not being delivered properly, cellphones issued to each polling place were not programmed to be able to speed-dial the control center if problems arose, and the sealed precinct cans containing poll books and record books were not picked up until the night before the election, he said.
"Basically, she didn't plan properly, and a lot of things got magnified and compounded," he said.
Nago said Kawauchi initially reported three polling places opened late, then roughly at noon reported 11 did.
He said that based on information that has surfaced so far, "upwards of 25" precincts on Hawaii Island might have opened late, but "we don't know where that number came from." That number may have come from the governor's proclamation Saturday extending voting hours by 90 minutes at all Hawaii County polling places.
The late opening of polling places was the culmination of a series of irregularities for which the county clerk has taken criticism, including the closing of an elections office for an audit, leaving another office unstaffed for a day, changing absentee ballot voting procedures and failing to adequately communicate with the state Elections Office and the public.
Saturday's election was the first Kawauchi had overseen. The Hawaii County elections administrator was fired early this year, reinstated in July, then placed on administrative leave at the union's request. A substitute elections administrator went on medical leave.
Kawauchi has said that, due to privacy, she cannot discuss personnel matters.
Star-Advertiser Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.