Native Hawaiians claim voter suppression at Leeward Oahu polling sites during general election

Published: Nov. 21, 2018 at 6:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a massive effort by several Native Hawaiian organizations to get out the vote for the general election, advocates are accusing state elections officials of stymieing their efforts.

Same-day voter registration forms ran out at Waianae Intermediate during the general election, and there’s concern about similar problems happening in Makaha.

“To me this is voter suppression. This is uncalled for," said Joe Kuhio Lewis, the chief executive of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. "They should have known that Native Hawaiian communities would turn out in larger numbers. We had Native Hawaiians running for office, and it’s really concerning.”

Scott Nago, chief elections officer, apologized for the problems.

“This is something that we didn’t plan for," he said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s something that, in the future, we make sure it does not happen again.”

This was the first year voters could sign an affidavit to register and vote on the same day. Nago told Hawaii News Now that Waianae Intermediate had been given an allotment of 150 forms, but by around 6 p.m. the forms had run out.

At least 16 voters had to wait for more forms to arrive.

In a letter to state Rep. Cedric Gates, Nago said that in past, elections there had a surplus of forms and that the state was "sorry for any inconvenience experienced by the voters who waited for the forms to be replenished.”

Nago added that forms ran low in Makaha, but did not run out.

“It’s something that we have to look at for next election, to make sure there’s no interruption in services, whether it’s getting troubleshooters out there or supplying more forms,” he said.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is now talking to the ACLU and Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation about next steps after CNHA spent $100,000 for the “I’m Hawaiian and I Vote” campaign. The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs also voted to look into allegations of voter suppression of Native Hawaiians.

“So we pump resources in, mobilize our community, get them to vote this year, and then we hear about these shortages,” said Lewis.

As for perceived low voter turn out among Hawaiians, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chief Executive Kamanaopono Crabbe said that there was "no validated data to suggest that Native Hawaiians vote at lower rates than the general public.”

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