East Hawaii News

State Election Officials Conducting Own Investigation

August 15, 2012, 1:21 PM HST
* Updated August 15, 1:22 PM
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­­­­­A meeting Tuesday with Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi about Saturday’s election problems did not provide enough answers for state election officials who are now conducting their own investigation.

Chief Election Officer Scott Nago met Tuesday in Hilo with all of the state’s county clerks and most of the counties’ chief election administrators.

State elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said today that such a meeting is typically done after an election to review procedures and problems.

While Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi attended, Hawai`i County’s interim elections administrator, Arlene Boteilho did not. According to Quidilla, Kawauchi did not give a reason why.

Boteilho reportedly went out on sick leave before Saturday’s primary election. She had been named the temporary replacement for Pat Nakamato, the county’s longtime elections administrator who was fired early this year. Nakamoto was reinstated to her job following a union grievance procedure but was placed by Kawauchi on paid administrative leave immediately upon her return in late July.

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Quidilla said because Kawauchi did not provide specific information Tuesday about problems encountered during Saturday’s primary, the state elections office is currently interviewing precinct officials.

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“We’re doing our own follow-up with the precinct chairs,” he said, which includes reviewing each polling place’s log which show when the precincts opened and other activities. “We hope to conclude that by the end of the week.”

One of the things state officials are trying to determine is how many of the precincts failed to open on time. Delays in openings in some West Hawai`i polling places prompted Gov. Neil Abercrombie to extend voting hours at all Big Island stations 90 minutes Saturday.

Kawauchi told them that one of the problems was that supplies including poll books and ballots failed to be delivered to some of the precincts on time, something Quidilla said seems to be “systemic” in West Hawai`i.

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He said another problem encountered involved cell phones provided to the polling stations that didn’t have proper numbers programmed in which made it difficult for poll workers to contact Kawauchi’s office and also didn’t allow elections officials to call the precincts.

State officials have been saying that Kawauchi was not in close contact with them for several weeks running up to Saturday’s election, which has made it difficult for them to provide her with assistance. The few times she did contact them she assured them that the situation was under control.

“It is very difficult when we have to rely on her reports that everyone was a-ok,” Quidilla said.

Meanwhile, County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, who appointed Kawauchi to her post, has called for a special meeting at 10 a.m. Monday in Hilo to “receive a detailed report” from Kawauchi on what transpired Saturday.

“It is important that an accurate accounting is provided so that the general public gets precise information in terms of what occurred at all polling places,” Yagong said in a letter to council members. “The ultimate goal is to ensure that the problems that occurred on primary election day are not repeated in the upcoming general election.”

Earlier this week Yagong had sought approval from the state attorney general to bypass the state’s Sunshine Law requiring notice be given of meetings six calendar days in advance so he could hold the meeting this week. His request was denied because the matter was not deemed to be an emergency.

Kawauchi appeared Tuesday night before a meeting of the Kona Tea Party at a Kailua-Kona restaurant to discuss the election proceedings, but according to a report from Big Island Chronicle, did not discuss specifics beyond what she had told state officials earlier in the day.

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