League of Women Voters Weighs in on Big Island Election Snafus

The Hawaii State League of Women Voters (LWVHI) is asking state and county elections officials to take definitive action on the primary election day mishaps that transpired on the Big Island.

The blunders — including the delayed opening of 13 Hawaii County polling places — have been attributed to the poor management by Big Island elections clerk Jamae Kawauchi.

“This year, we have been troubled by a number of serious issues on the island of Hawai‘i which cumulatively may have diminished voters’ confidence in the Hawai‘i County Elections Office,” reads the LWVHI press release. “We are concerned about an apparent lack of communication and transparency from the County Clerk with the press and public. Press conferences may have explained prior actions, but the time lag between actions and explanations fostered an air of mistrust. The State Elections Office complained about unreturned calls and emails to the County Elections Office. Staff terminations, unexpected leaves of absence, complaints of inadequate staffing, and miscommunications led to what one journalist called ‘chaos’ on Primary Election Day.”

In response to the debacle, state elections chief Scott Nago has organized a series of workshops in which experienced elections staff will come together to troubleshoot any remaining elections-related glitches.

The LWVHI outlines its suggested course of action as follows:

- The Hawaii County Council should ensure that all relevant Elections Office staff participate in the workshops

- The Council should fully staff its elections division and “assign undivided responsibility for County preparations for and conduct of the November voting process to someone with experience in successfully managing elections.”

- Kawauchi should comply with relevant legislation, including designating official observers at the counting center

- The State Elections Commission should investigate the actions that lead to the Aug. 11 mishaps.

— Alia Wong

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