Fueled by doubts, hundreds of Hawaii Republicans sign up as election observers

Hawaii elections officials and volunteers say there’s been increased scrutiny because of accusations of fraud ― and they say that’s a good thing.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 4:36 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - National Republicans are voting more people into office who believe the 2020 election was stolen and the doubts have fueled interest in volunteering as an observer in Hawaii.

Hawaii elections officials and volunteers say there’s been increased scrutiny because of accusations of fraud ― and they say that’s a good thing.

More than 166,000 ballots have been mailed in so far.

Some arrived at the State Capitol on Monday in locked cages.

Election workers go through extra steps for ballots that can’t be read by machine.

“I’m just separating them into two boxes. One box will get scanned, the other will get secured and stored,” said Aulii Tenn, who works in counting center operations for the state Office of Elections.

Observers are always in the room when there’s an open ballot.

Dennis Kam has been a volunteer observer since 1982 and heard something new during orientation.

“Some of them (observers) came in thinking there was a lot of fraud, corruption and conspiracy,” said Kam.

“Once they saw the process, once they saw how we opened the envelopes ... how we stacked the ballots up, how we processed it, it kind of opened their eyes and they said, ‘oh yeah, well this is good,’” he added.

Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said the Republican Party of Hawaii sent about 200 people to be volunteer observers this year. In a typical year, the state Office of Elections would be lucky to get only 50. Officials say they have heard some people think the 2020 election was stolen, but they don’t have an official number.

“When you start questioning people’s integrity without any kind of facts, that’s the part that really bothers me,” said Nago.

Despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election, Candice Ching signed up to be an election observer in Hawaii because she believes there were problems in swing states.

“I can’t say whether definitely there was cheating or not, but something was wrong,” said Ching.

Republican candidate for Governor Heidi Tsuneyoshi told Hawaii News Now during “The Job Interview” that there have been “issues” with Hawaii’s voting system and the 2020 election.

“Not that I said stolen, but I said even in our state, we had missing ballots. We have that all the time,” said Tsuneyoshi.

Nago immediately countered her claim.

“What missing ballots?” he asked.

“Because I don’t recall any missing ballots so I don’t know what she’s referring to.”

Many conservatives don’t trust mail-in voting and want to go back to traditional voting at the polls.

But Nago says in Hawaii, absentee voting has always been popular and has been done securely for years even before Hawaii switched to mail-in ballots.

“It’s really a secure process that we’ve done for years and years and we’ve refined it,” he said.

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