Big Island elections official apologizes for polling issues

Big Island elections official apologizes for polling issues
Published: Aug. 15, 2012 at 11:42 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 16, 2012 at 7:51 AM HST
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Jamae Kawauchi
Jamae Kawauchi

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of Hawaii County elections apologized for voter delays, saying much of the problems were caused by communications breakdowns.

Meanwhile, the state has conducted its own review and concluded that the delays were not as widespread as initially reported by the county.

Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi spoke Tuesday night at a meeting held by the Kona Tea Party. She described election day as chaotic.

"It was very intense. There were phone lines ringing. You're trying to establish communication. You got over 400 people ... over 500 people deployed on the island. It got intense because your only objective was to establish communication with your precincts and we're having trouble doing it."

Kawauchi says many poll workers were unable to communicate with county election officers because cell phones they were issued weren't programmed with the correct phone numbers.

She said her Kona office delivered election materials to the polling station one-and-a-half hours late. She also blamed herself.

"You can attribute responsibility for the failures to me," she said. "All I can offer to you is that I'm very sorry and that it was a very big problem."

Kawauchi told the state on election night that 25 of 40 polling stations did not open on time. That prompted Gov. Neil Abercrombie to keep Big Island voting polls open an hour-and-a-half later.

Hawaii's Chief Election Officer Scott Nago says his office is conducting its own review and looked at voter records has interviewed most of the precinct chairs on the Big Island. The findings: Just 10 out of 40 polling stations faced delays. Of those delays, the study found that the openings of just three precincts had been delayed by 1.5 hours or more.

"It does not seem as widespread as it was claimed to be," he said.

On Monday, the Hawaii County Council will hold a special meeting, where they will get the opportunity to grill Kawauchi. Although the meeting is meant to an informational briefing, council members say they could recommend Kawauchi's termination.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.