State officials have begun preparing for the primary election

Ballot machine tests, preparations underway for primary election

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before each election, employees and volunteers with the state Office of Elections gather to do a test tun and practice entering ballots into the computerized system.

That includes mail-in ballots and those entered at a polling place.

This year, residents in Pahoa affected by the Kilauea eruption were told the only option they would have is the mail-in vote. But that changed when the Chief Election Officer Scott Nago made a special proclamation on Friday announcing a polling place would open in Pahoa on election day.

"We sent out mail-in ballots at the end of last month to give them enough time to get their ballot filled out and return it. Since then, the situation has stabilized, so we can open up a polling place on election day," said Nago, who added the single location would be at the Pahoa Community Center.

Pahoa residents, and anyone else in the state who can't get to a polling place, can still mail in ballots. Those have to be requested by August 4th and returned with a signature before polls close on election day.

[To register to vote, update records or request ballots, click here.]

"The signature is matched to make sure they are the person that voted. If it does match, it gets counted," added Nago.

This year, the office of elections has been able to improve security and update equipment after receiving $3.1 million federal grant. It will allow more staff to be hired and enhance training procedures like the important work that happened Saturday morning at the elections warehouse downtown.

"This is the first step in securing our elections," Nago said before welcoming volunteer observers into a room filled with ballot counting machines.

Volunteers from political parties and other organizations spent the morning running test ballots through the system to ensure accuracy.

"Today I have the privilege of being one of the election observers," said observer Cindy Vaillancourt who spent 34 years in the military before serving her country in another way.

"I see it as part of my civic duty. It's kind of a public service to be able to do this because it shows me that there is integrity in the security of the machines, the ballots, and the people who are actually watching and doing the process," added Vaillancourt.

If something does go wrong with the ballot counting machines or they lose power, the paper ballots are saved as a backup. But Chief Election Officer Scott Nago says the machines almost never fail.

"Usually if there is something wrong with the system, it is a human marking error," said Nago

There are still about 600 volunteers needed on election day to help transport ballots and assist voters at the polls. Kalihi, East Honolulu, Ewa and the north shore are some of the areas where help is most needed.

The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is Thursday July 12 at 4:30 p.m.

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