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Elections chief defends primary decisions

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 1:58 p.m. HST, Aug 22, 2014

The state Office of Elections is reviewing procedures and working with vendors to ensure there is no repeat of the event on Maui in which some 800 absentee mail-in ballots were discovered days after the polls had closed.

At a meeting Friday of the state Elections Commission, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago was questioned in detail about the discovered ballots on Maui and the larger decision to hold elections in the storm-ravaged Puna district amid a steady stream of complaints from voters in the community.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D, Puna) urged the commission to either allow all four precincts in the district to vote again or allow those from all precincts who still wish to vote to do so after signing an affidavit stating they were physically unable to vote because of storm-related damage.

Nago said that at every step of the way, decisions were carried out after consultations that included the governor's office, Hawaii County officials and state Civil Defense. While his office has authority to consolidate polling sites and postpone the election in the event of a natural disaster, those decisions must be made beforehand.

Once the polls open, only the governor has the power to take additional action to accommodate additional voters, he said.

Regarding the event on Maui, Nago said a vendor mistakenly left out one card when it did a second scan of all ts memory cards. The state is working with that vendor.

Commissioner Danny Young questioned Nago on steps being taken to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. While Nago said it is his job to review procedures and hold those responsible accountable, Young urged the office to take whatever additional steps are necessary to ensure there no recurrence of the issue.

"If it was a vendor's error and you didn't control the vendor — you need to assign somebody to control your vendor," Young said. "Because ultimately it comes back on you.

"You need to control the vendor so it doesn't happen again."

Nago responded, "I understand."

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