UPDATE: Voting Hours Extended; Results Will Be Delayed
***Updated at 4:45 p.m..***
Gov. Neil Abercrombie issued a proclamation this afternoon extending the closing time of Big Island polling places to 7:30 p.m.
Abercrombie said he authorized the 90-minute extension because “multiple” polling stations on the Big Island opened later than the scheduled time of 7 a.m. In one case, the polling station opened nearly an hour and a half late, the governor said. That station reportedly was located in Kona.
“The most important issue in this situation is to make sure that everyone who wants to vote can vote. By extending the poll hours, we are making that possible,” stated Governor Abercrombie. “I also want to thank all those who are working hard to assist at all polling stations across the state.”
The extended voting hours involves only Hawai`i County, Abercrombie said, and polls on all other islands will close at the regularly scheduled time of 6 p.m.
The delay means the release of results of today’s primary election will be delayed for a similar period. Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the state elections office on Oahu, told Big Island Now that no results can be released statewide until all Hawai`i polls have closed.
Quidilla said it was not clear how many polling places opened late. He said Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi had not yet responded to a request for that information.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the proclamation came after state Sen. Josh Green, a Democrat representing South Kona, complained about the delayed opening of the Kahakai polling station in Kailua-Kona.
Green said his poll watchers reported that 20 to 30 people were unable to vote because of the station’s late opening, including Green’s aunt who had to go to work, the newspaper reported.
According to a statement issued by Abercrombie’s office, state law gives the governor authority to extend the polling hours.
That, however, is not in Chapter 11 of Hawai`i Revised Statutes which governs elections.
Section 11-131 of that chapter establishes that polling places must open at 7 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. It also states that anyone standing in line to vote at 6 p.m. — or waiting outside if the polling place is overcrowded — must also be allowed to vote, but does not appear to allow other exceptions.
“No voter shall be permitted to enter or join the line after the prescribed hour for closing the polls,” the law states.
Abercrombie’s office said his authority to extend the voting hours comes from another section of the law, Chapter 128, which deals with civil defense emergencies.
The governor’s office cited HRS Section 128-10, which states that “irrespective” of an officially declared civil defense emergency period, the governor may assume control of public property “for the temporary accommodation of the government service affected thereby as the governor may deem advisable.”