The state Elections Commission Tuesday decided to appoint a subcommittee to investigate ballot problems on Oahu during the Nov. 6 election, following testimony from some members of the public who called for Chief Election Officer Scott Nago to be fired. The panel did not take steps to punish or terminate Nago after meeting for more than an hour behind closed doors to talk about his response to the problems on Election Day. Nago told the commission said the state had enough reserve ballots but his staff was not able to deliver them to 17 percent of Oahu’s polling places during the general election, causing them to run out of ballots, resulting in long lines and delays.
About one third of the Oahu precincts experienced ballot shortages, Nago said. “People were turned away. When you don’t print enough ballots, when you don’t give enough ballots, that amounts to voter suppression,” said Marsha Joyner of Hawaii Kai, who has worked as a poll worker for several decades.
State Sen. Sam Slom (R-Hawaii Kai, Kahala) asked the commission state to fire Nago.
“This erodes the confidence of the public and it makes them angry and it cries out for action,” Slom said. “In order to regain and retain trust in our process, we have to do something differently. The public is incensed that our public institutions aren’t being led well. Everybody’s pointing fingers like this. Nobody’s taking responsibility.”
Carroll Cox, a Mililani resident and environmental activist, also asked commissioners to sack Nago.
“There should be a change in leadership. In fact a cleansing of that entire office as we know it here,” Cox said.
Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi — who’s being replaced next month after problems during the primary election — complained Nago didn’t give her any warning the state was taking over elections on the Big Island for the general election.
“This was a great disruption to the staff, to the county and the way that was handled, I think, was grossly inappropriate,” Kawauchi said.