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Hawaii state, county knew of election 'blue flu'

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:30 p.m. HST, Oct 23, 2012

HILO >> Government documents obtained by West Hawaii Today show state and county officials were aware two days beforehand that most Hawaii County elections permanent staffers planned to call in sick on primary election day in August. 

Four out of seven permanent elections staff called in sick on Aug. 11. Poll workers, control center workers and other temporary and volunteer helpers also contracted the “blue flu” and didn’t come to work.

Thirteen out of 40 polling places on the Big Island opened late on election day, forcing Gov. Neil Abercrombie to order Hawaii County polls to stay open 90 minutes later than originally planned so everyone would have a chance to vote. Earlier this month, state elections officials announced they would take over Hawaii County’s polls for the general election on Nov. 6.

Two days before the primary, the state’s chief elections officer, Scott Nago wrote Hawaii County clerk about worker plans to call in sick. 

“As you might surmise, the Office of Elections was understandably concerned to learn that the services of certain Hilo elections staff will not be available on election day,” Nago said in an Aug. 9 letter to Kawauchi. “We now understand that you anticipated months ago that some election workers might not show up this week or on election day, and as such, you developed a backup plan.”

Nago also offered to help Kawauchi if she needed it.

The letter is among almost 400 pages of documents Nago’s office provided West Hawaii Today in partial fulfillment of an Oct. 5 public records request. 

West Hawaii Today says it also requested documents from Mayor Billy Kenoi, Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and Kawauchi. The newspaper said as of press time Kenoi and Yagong produced what they claimed were all relevant records, Nago had produced only some of the requested documents and Kawauchi none at all.

Nago declined to speculate about whether the loss of four of the seven permanent elections staff caused or contributed to the problems. Kawauchi agreed that more information is needed before it’s known why the election went so far off track.

Right now, Nago said, everyone is focusing on the general election. A more thorough investigation of the primary is likely to come after that, he said.

State Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, said he’s going to ask the state auditor to investigate. He’s waiting until after the general election, he said.

“The reason we are waiting is because we don’t want to add any obstacles to a fair and balanced election next month,” Green said. “We appreciate that the state has taken over for the next one. . All that I want is for every vote to be counted. I don’t care who’s in charge, as long as that happens.”

The primary day problems included unforeseen technical and operational problems, including equipment malfunctions and supplies being delivered late to polling places. The issues surfaced Aug. 11 after weeks of smaller problems leading up to the election.  

It was the first time an entire county had hours at all its polls extended. In 1996, some polling places on Oahu had their hours extended because of bad weather.  

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Kapakahi wrote:
This "blue flu" sickout by experienced election workers was only hinted at in earlier news accounts. It is obvious Kawauchi was sabotaged by workers willing to undermine the elections on the Big Island in order to make the clerk look bad. Unless we delve more into the reasons the original staff were fired, it is hard to assess who is truly at fault. All we can conclude is that some people are determined to get rid of Kawauchi at all costs. And that the "failures" attributed to her are actually due to sabotage, a sabotage which appears will be rewarded, as Kawauchi is forced out, as it is clear will happen.
on October 22,2012 | 01:52PM
Bigdog_MD wrote:
"most Hawaii County elections permanent staffers planned to call in sick on primary election day in August." FIRE THEM ALL!!!
on October 22,2012 | 01:55PM
Graham wrote:
And bar them from ever working for any government agency...
on October 22,2012 | 02:16PM
false wrote:
But everyone will still vote Democrat and expect change. We need checks and balances. Vote Republican
on October 22,2012 | 08:40PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Wow! They certainly are not Public Servants! Oh ,sorry, civil service workers.
on October 22,2012 | 02:12PM
Papakolea wrote:
I wonder if there's any way to find out who organized this and charge them with a crime for interfering with a federal election?
on October 22,2012 | 02:14PM
Papakolea wrote:
I guess we now know the level of "professionals" who work the elections on the Big Island. How shame. If you can't, or don't want to, do your job, then quit and let a more qualified person do it. What union is this?
on October 22,2012 | 02:16PM
Manoa_Fisherman wrote:
For the county workers who called in sick, you better all get a doctor's note and hope that the Federal judge who has your cases for violations of the Voting Rights Act will accept them. Conspiracy to deny voters their rights is a FEDERAL FELONY! I hope you all have good lawyers, a five year stretch in the Federal prison is a full five years. Aloha you idiots.
on October 22,2012 | 02:32PM
localguy wrote:
The Feds have a nice "Hotel" by the Honolulu Airport for all those who violate federal law. Nice narrow windows to let in sunlight, three hots and a cot, and a roommate you do not want to be with. Keep your eyes open all night.
on October 22,2012 | 10:22PM
Manoa_Fisherman wrote:
A nickel stretch is on the mainland, not local jail.
on October 22,2012 | 11:28PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Fire all of those elections staffers who maliciously sabotaged the Primary election.
on October 22,2012 | 10:17PM
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