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Hawaii county clerk 'strongly disagrees' with critics

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 8:35 a.m. HST, Aug 17, 2012

Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi says she was unaware that the state chief election officer was investigating her performance and “strongly disagrees” with his findings of failed leadership and poor planning in Saturday’s primary election.

In an e-mail sent Thursday night, Kawauchi said Chief Election Officer Scott Nago never contacted her or allowed her to respond to his report.

“This lack of communication on his part does not help to improve or address the significant issues that Hawaii County and the State Office of Elections obviously need to overcome to work together in partnership to run an election,” Kawauchi added.

 “I strongly disagree with the State Office of Elections and their assessment that there was failed leadership, poor planning and implementation by me on Primary Election Day. Yes there were errors that occurred on Primary Election Day.  However this is not a perfect system, mistakes will be made and 100 percent accuracy should not be expected. Mr. Nago is being overly critical and he is failing to see that the big picture goal is to get through the elections.”

 Nago described Kawa­uchi, who was overseeing her first election, as an inexperienced county clerk who lacked the confidence and the ability to articulate the nature of the problem to state election officials or the public. The report concludes that Kawa­uchi's performance unnecessarily undermined public confidence in the election.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie issued a proclamation Saturday to extend voting hours in Hawaii County by 90 minutes after reports that several of the county's 40 precincts had not opened as scheduled at 7 a.m.

Kawauchi responded: “I note that in the usual course, if an investigation is conducted, notice and an opportunity to respond is expected, prior to the release of the findings of the investigation to the public and the media. Regrettably, Mr. Nago did not provide me with an opportunity to respond to his report or to provide comment prior to release.”

She said she met with precinct officials this week and talked about “the solutions that we can work toward for an improved experience for the general election. 

“This tells me that Hawaii County is moving forward to doing everything that we can to have a fair and well run (general) election.”

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