The Big Island became the epicenter of primary election day fiascos when the delayed opening of numerous polling places forced Gov. Neil Abercrombie to issue an emergency proclamation authorizing them to stay open for an extra 90 minutes. But that was just the latest snafu in a series of problems that all trace back to Jamae Kawauchi, the Hawaii County clerk who has been on the job since 2010. The incidents have raised doubts about whether she’ll stay on board for the general election. The state Office of Elections on Thursday released a scathing report faulting Kawauchi for her mismanagement. Rex Quidilla, state elections spokesperson, said the problems occurred because of a failure in leadership training and an unwillingness to ask for help. “We at every turn provided offered our assistance,” he said. “We were met with reassurances that that wouldn’t be necessary.” Meanwhile, and in the aftermath of the report, Kawauchi has gone on the offensive.
She first fired back on Friday, calling state elections chief Scott Nago “overly critical,” adding that “he is failing to see that the big picture goal is to get through the elections.” She went on to highlight Nago’s own failure to communicate. On Monday, Kawauchi followed up with an eight-page memorandum reiterating her version of what transpired on primary day. She asked Abercrombie to conduct an independent review of the Hawaii Office of Elections and attributed election-day irregularities to problems she first identified in September 2011.