Political candidates running for office in areas heavily affected by Kilauea’s ongoing volcanic eruption on Hawaii island are complaining that the state Office of Elections is confusing voters and unnecessarily shutting down walk-in voting locations on the day of primary elections. Both Pahoa Community Center and Pahoa High and Intermediate School will be closed to voting Aug. 11 with no alternative walk-in location available. One County Council candidate is also concerned that plans to send absentee ballots to affected residents weeks ahead of schedule to compensate for the closures will give incumbents an unfair advantage. “They are basically pre-empting the election,” said Frederic Wirick, who is running for the Hawaii County Council District 5 seat, representing western Puna, against incumbent Jennifer Ruggles.
Wirick is worried that voters won’t have a chance to get to know him before they receive their early ballots, which are being sent out Monday — three weeks early. He said he has two candidate forums scheduled for after that date — one on Friday and another on July 17.
But election officials say they are only trying to ensure safe voting conditions and to make voting as easy as possible amid challenging conditions.