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Jamae Kawauchi speaks with the press

Commission examines election problems

Marsha Joyner: “When you don’t give enough ballots, when you don’t print enough ballots, that is voter suppression."

Matthew Sylva

The state’s elections commission met Tuesday to review alleged problems in the primary and general elections.

First, Hawaii island

Testimony opened with Hawaii County Elections Clerk Jamae Kawauchi speaking to the removal of elections powers from Hawaii Island and given to the state office following primary election problems there.

“The approach that was used was very negative and indicative,” said Kawauchi in reference to how State of Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago handled the situation.

Kawauchi claimed that Nago interfered with Hawaii County Elections Office personnel issues and said that he implied there would be problems if select personnel that had been let go were not rehired. 
The State Office of Elections was issuing press releases to the media before they were being sent to the Hawaii County Clerk’s Office, stated Kawauchi.

Another issue brought up were the T-shirts made by the State Elections Office showing a voting record book image with Hawaii County and Kawauchi’s personal polling location checked off.  The shirts then read, “One for the record books.”  Kawauchi wanted to know if this was a personal attack from Nago. 

Commission member Warren Orikasa asked about the Hawaii County Clerk and her office missing the training sessions before the primary. 

To this Kawauchi clarified that each of the three sessions mentioned were held on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu and Maui.  Further she said that the Deputy County Clerk attended the Kaua‘i session in her place and that she had in fact attended the O‘ahu and Maui sessions.

Kawauchi recommended that the state return authority back to Hawaii County and pushed for an investigation into the T-shirts.

“There’s got to be a consequence for these actions”

State Sen. Sam Slom, the recently re-elected Republican representing District 9 on O‘ahu, gave his input.

“The office [of elections] has one basic responsibility, and that is to run an efficient election every two years,” opened Slom.  Sen. Slom brought up the paper ballot shortage that occurred at 24 polling sites on O‘ahu, affecting 51 districts. 

“The public is really mad that our public institutions aren’t really led well,” said Slom in reference to the elections debacle and the recent University of Hawai‘i leadership issues. 

“There’s got to be a consequence for these actions,” concluded Sen. Slom. 

Vice-president of the League of Women Voters, Janet Mason, addressed the commission, saying that the League wanted a statewide elections authority for federal and state elections.  The league wants to see the creation of a secure online registration database and Mason mentioned a law already passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The league also pushed for an all mail-in early voting absentee system in agreement with the governor, but that such a system needs a tracking system in place first to ensure ballots are counted. This is in disagreement with Sen. Slom who voiced his opinion against such a set up. 

Voter suppression?

Marsha Joyner, the former president of the Martin Luther King Coalition-Hawaii addressed those assembled.

“When you don’t give enough ballots, when you don’t print enough ballots, that is voter suppression,” began Joyner. She then referenced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. 
Joyner claims that this is tantamount to felony and that with the 30-day registration deadline there should be no excuse for what happened. 

Who is to blame?

According to Nago, it was the formula used to determine approximately how many registered voters would turn up to vote. The office requested the number of ballots to be printed for each location based off of a single formula. 

Commission member Danny Young asked why the same number of ballots as registered voters wasn’t printed since cost was not a factor. 

Commission member William Marston told Nago that he had to come up with a better system. 

Young followed up by asking where the ballots are printed.  Nago replied that they are contracted out to a printer on O‘ahu.  So shipping was not an issue if more were needed.  Nago said that if they ran short more could be supplemented.

“Why can’t we print enough ballots then?” asked Commission member Xara Marshall. 

“We can,” replied Nago. 

Furthermore, as the Hawaii Independent revealed, incorrect ballots were brought to the Hokulani and Waialae Elementary School polling sites. These were not originally counted by the machines, but were counted later, according to Nago.

Commission members Patricia Berg from Kaua‘i and Marshall from Maui both commented positively on the elections process on their respective islands. Berg raised small issues, such as protesters that she thought weren’t handled as well as they could have been had the proper guidelines been in place and available to poll workers.