The closing of the elections office at the West Hawaii Civic Center and the dismissal of a temporary worker used to staff that location has led to new concerns about Hawaii County's ability to conduct a smooth primary election on Aug. 11.
Over the weekend, Odetta Shimotsu was notified that her services at the elections office in Kailua-Kona would no longer be needed. Shimotsu was not given a reason, but said she has lost faith in County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi to run a smooth election.
"I just don't feel she knows what she's doing," said Shimotsu. "I don't have very much faith in it."
Kawauchi told KITV4 she was not allowed to disclose the reason behind Shimotsu's dismissal, but County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said it had more to do with the amount of work at the Kailua-Kona office than anything else.
"It was not a matter of fired or terminated," said Yagong. "It was a matter of a managerial decision to place help in the area that was needed the most."
According to Kawauchi, the elections office at the West Hawaii Civic Center had only received seven absentee ballots, compared with 10,000 received by the elections office in Hilo.
During a Monday news conference with reporters, Kawauchi said the Kailua-Kona elections office would be open on Wednesday. However, she clarified her remarks late Tuesday afternoon, saying the deputy county clerk would be manning the office, while also performing his duties in the County Clerk's Office next door.
"So it's not a case of it closing," said Kawauchi. "It's a case of our deputy county clerk not being in the office until 11 a.m. (Tuesday)."
Under the Hawaii County Charter, Kawauchi answered directly to Chairman Yagong, and so far, he hasn't lost confidence in her ability to conduct a trouble-free election.
"I think we're going to do just fine," said Yagong. "If you look at what's been happening so far with the walk-in, it's been very smooth, and things that have come up, have been taken care of. I think people are quite pleased as far as what has happened thus far."