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State elections panel plans to study ballot-shortage ‘fiasco’

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    State elections chief Scott Nago meets with the State Elections Commission to explain the shortage of paper ballots during the general election.

The state Elections Commission opted not to fire or discipline Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago after meeting today and instead will form a subcommittee to study major problems in the general election.

Commission Chairman William Marston said the subcommittee, made up of two commission members, will report its findings at a meeting in January. He said the report will guide the commission in making any next steps.

“We want to be sure that whatever we do, we cover all our bases,” he said. “We just want more answers.”

Asked whether Nago should be worried about his job, Marston replied, “I don’t know.”

The commission met for about an hour in executive session after nearly two hours of discussion and testimony on the problems seen during the general election.

Much of the concern revolved around a paper ballot shortage on Oahu.

Over the course of the morning, several testifiers urged the commission to sack Nago.

State Sen. Sam Slom, whose district includes Hawaii Kai, told the commission a “simple apology” won’t suffice.

“This erodes the confidence in the public. It makes them angry and it cries out for action,” he said. “I would urge you today to take strong decisive actions, expediting your internal review, and replcacement of current leadership.”

On Nov. 6, at least 51 Oahu polling places ran short or ran out of paper ballots. Hundreds of voters had to wait hours to cast a ballot, and many left polling places rather than waiting.

As he has said previously, Nago told the commission this morning that the ballot problems occurred because of a miscalculation over how many ballots were needed.

“Our responses should have been better. We should have had reserve ballots out in the field,” he said. “We should have been able to cope with it much better than we did.”

Commission members appeared unsatisfied with Nago’s explanation of how the ballot problems occurred, and several expressed anger at the scope of ballot shortages.

“If you’ve got 100,000 voters, you order 100,000 ballots,” said Commission member Danny Young, who described the voting problems as a “fiasco.”

Commission member Xara Marshall said she doesn’t understand “why it’s not possible to” provide enough ballots. 

“It’s going to lead to a lack of voter confidence,” she said.

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