State balloting chief resigns at her boss' request after ballot shortage
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lori Tomczyk, a long-time state election section chief, is taking the fall for Oahu's ballot shortages on Election Day, and resigned at her boss' request earlier this month, sources told Hawaii News Now Monday.
During the general election on Nov. 6, 24 Oahu polling places ran out of paper ballots, causing long lines of voters and delaying the first printout of election results by two hours.
Tomczyk is the ballot operations section head, who is in charge of distribution and collection of ballots statewide.
An elections official since 1999, she's worked every Hawaii election since 2000. Her boss, Chief Election Officer Scott Nago, sent Tomczyk to the Big Island to run elections there Nov. 6 after the Hawaii County clerk had numerous problems during the Aug. 11 primary election. She was also sent to Hawaii County for the primary.
Sources said Nago asked Tomczyk to resign a few days after the general election because of the problems on Oahu. Tomczyk, an at-will employee without union protection, complied with Nago's request and quit, sources said.
Her last day with the state is Friday, a source said.
Hawaii News Now was not able to reach Tomczyk for comment and Nago said he could not comment because it's a personnel matter.
Some people within the election community feel Tomczyk is being made the scapegoat because she's being held responsible for two jobs on Election Day: running Hawaii County's election operations while also making sure ballot operations on Oahu ran smoothly. And she had all those responsibilities while when she was in Hilo for a week and a half leading up to and including Election Day, sources said.
"When you spread everybody thin, that's what happens. If Lori had been on Oahu, the extent of the balloting problems would never have happened," said one source familiar with elections operations.
Nago will testify Tuesday before his bosses on the State Election Commission as they look into what happened Election Day.
The commission's agenda for its 10 a.m. meeting at the State Office Tower said the panel will go behind closed doors into executive session to consider Nago's role in preparing for and conducting the general election.
The agenda also said the commission will "take action, if appropriate."
Asked if he's worried he will lose his job, Nago said, "Whatever happens, happens. It's up to the elections commission."
A state elections employee since 1998, Nago has headed the state's election operation since January of 2010.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie also has asked Attorney General David Louie to investigate the state Office of Elections and the circumstances that resulted in the shortage of paper ballots on Election Day.
"This serious problem has tarnished the election process and eroded public confidence," Abercrombie said.
"We will participate in any investigation," Nago said.
Nago's office produced a Nov. 20 report on the election snafus that said there were three causes for the ballot shortages.
"The initial lack of a sufficient inventory or ballots at various polling places across the state was the result of a deficient model used for ordering ballots, a failure to follow the safeguards that exist to modify the order or to reallocate existing ballots prior to Election Day, and a failure to deploy additional ballots in a timely manner on Election Day," the report said.
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