Hawaii’s Office of Elections today released a six-page report blasting Hawaii County clerk Jamae Kawauchi for grossly mishandling election-day preparation and implementation — and then failing to tell officials what went wrong.
“Essentially, the County Clerk on election day is supposed to be like a field general with a plan of attack, who acts confidently, and has the support of his or her troops,” reads the report. “The County Clerk was in no way, shape, or form that type of leader.”
A slew of Big Island polling places opened late on the day of the primary, forcing Gov. Neil Abercrombie to extend polling hours there by an hour and a half. That was on top of setbacks in July, when Kawauchi randomly closed her office on a Monday less than three weeks before the election.
Elections office chief Scott Nago has said that he — like everyone else — was out of the loop as to what transpired on the Big Island in recent weeks. Kawauchi repeatedly insisted that everything was running smoothly. But that wasn’t the case, the report finds.
Facing a wishy-washy Kawauchi, the state elections office conducted its own investigation, according to the report.
Nago and his staff found that 13 polling places — out of 40 total in the county — had opened late. Kawauchi had initially estimated the number to be three. Then 25. Then at least 11.
Officials ultimately concluded that these irregularities did not affect election results.
Here are a few excerpts:
While irregularities may happen on election day, as we are dealing with hundreds of stipended volunteers, and many moving parts, the County Clerk lacked the ability to definitively articulate the nature of the problem to the Office of Elections or the public.
The public’s confidence in our elections was rocked by this election proclamation, which normally is only issued when a natural disaster or emergency occurs. The Governor did not lightly issue this proclamation and under the circumstances, he arguably had no other choice than to protect the rights of the voters, if the County Clerk’s general representations to Attorney General were correct.
As for the question of whether the conduct of the County Clerk unnecessarily undermined the public’s confidence in our electoral system, the answer is unfortunately yes, for the reasons previously noted. This cannot be allowed to happen again. The County Clerk must rededicate herself to mastering election administration or at the very minimum to surround herself with individuals with expertise in election administration. Additionally, the County Clerk must work on learning to communicate effectively and in a timely manner to other members of the election community and to the public as a whole.
— Alia Wong