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Hawaii primary elections face difficulties

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August 14, 2012


By Jennifer Springer

HONOLULU, Hawaii Just days before the primary, Hawaiian election officials were thrown a curve ball when two key staffers in the office, the acting elections administrator and the person in charge of voter registration, reported that they would be out on sick leave until after the election.[1] Additionally, temporary staffer Kui Kama, who worked the 2008 and 2010 elections in the Hawaiian election office, resigned on August 8 and submitted a resignation letter that said, "I refuse to be a part of something that will fail, because I know it will."[1] According to Jeffrey Kuwada, the Maui County Clerk since 2009, "It is my personal opinion that the operation of a successful primary election in Hawaii County is doubtful, if more election personnel fail to report to work."[1]

Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi stated on August 9th, "We're fine, we're doing OK," despite closing the office for a day in July without warning to audit voter registration rolls[1] and reportedly not responding to state elections officials' requests for a detailed update for nearly an entire week.[1] Kawauchi was appointed to the Hawaii County clerk's job in 2010 and has not worked an election before.[1] Despite the concerns, Kawauchi said back-up staff have been shadowing staffers for several weeks and have assumed their responsibilities.[1]

In response to several polling stations delaying their opening time on the day of the primary, Governor Neil Abercrombie issued a proclamation to extend polling hours on Hawaii Island by 90 minutes on Saturday, August 11.[2] The delays ranged from only a few minutes in some places to more than a half hour in others, and almost an hour and a half in one location.[2] "The most important issue in this situation is to make sure that everyone who wants to vote can vote. By extending the poll hours, we are making that possible. I also want to thank all those who are working hard to assist at all polling stations across the state," said Abercrombie in a proclamation on August 11, 2012.[2] The State Senator serving West Hawaii, Joshua Green, reportedly “made a formal request through the State Office of Elections to honor the people of West Hawaii and their right and duty to vote by keeping the polls open in West Hawaii for two extra hours” on August 11 as well.[3] Because of the delay, election results for all districts were not released until the close of all polls in the state.[2]

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