Hawaii county clerk, state chief elections officer confident about general election

Election officials meet at Attorney General's office Thursday

Published  10:31 PM HST Oct 04, 2012
Big Island county clerk controversy
HONOLULU -

Problems that plagued Hawaii County’s primary election Aug. 11 have been resolved, and the focus has shifted to running a smooth general election on Nov. 6.

That was the consensus among Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi and state Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago Thursday, after a nearly two-hour meeting at the state Attorney General’s office in downtown Honolulu.

"Make sure we're all on the same page," Nago told reporters, after emerging from the meeting with Kawauchi by his side. "Make sure that she knows what we're doing, (and) we know what she's doing, and it was a good meeting."

"We're satisfied with what he's done, and we're looking forward and wanting to make sure that together, that we have a well-run election," Kawauchi added. "Our confidence level I think is very good."

Despite the Kumbayá moment, Nago and Kawauchi didn't exactly see eye-to-eye after 13 of 40 polling sites in Hawaii County opened late for the primary election.  Gov. Neil Abercrombie was forced to issue an emergency proclamation that kept precincts open an extra 90 minutes and election results across the state were delayed.  There were also problems with phone lines not working properly, and election materials not delivered on time, or locked shut.

An examination of the primary by the state Office of Elections came down hard on Kawauchi, with Nago stating, "What my staff witnessed was poor planning, implementation, and leadership by the County Clerk."

Kawauchi shot back with a press release of her own, saying Nago should have consulted her office before making his findings public.

On Tuesday, Nago announced the state Office of Elections would take over most of the critical aspects of Hawaii County’s general election, including the delivery and counting of ballots, as well as the county’s election control center.  Kawauchi’s office will still be responsible for absentee balloting and voter registration.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii County Council passed a resolution Wednesday by a vote of 9-0 that urges an investigation of the bungled August primary.  The measure, although not binding, had strong support from the League of Women Voters.

Kawauchi said she supports a probe, but the topic was not raised during the meeting at the state Attorney General’s office.  Instead, she said state and Hawaii County lawyers merely monitoring the face-to-face with Nago, since election laws involve both state and county governments.

"So, it appeared appropriate to have a conversation with the state Attorney General's office, as well as the Hawaii County Office of the Corporation Counsel, as well as the chief elections (officer) and the county clerk," said Kawauchi.

Kawauchi said the model for running an election is the City and County of Honolulu, and she and her staff would continue to receive training and guidance from Honolulu City Clerk Bernice Mau in the weeks leading up to Nov. 6.

"She has very generously offered to provide support to us, and so we'll be back and we'll be training alongside of them in the days leading up to Election Day," Kawauchi said.

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