The FBI has gotten involved in an investigation into allegations of voter fraud on the Big Island, sources told Hawaii News Now Friday. The elections office in Hilo run by Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi shut down Monday for what she called an “audit” less than three weeks before the primary election, without further explanation. That raised concern among politicians and other elections officials in the state, especially since for the last five days, Kawauchi has not returned State Elections Officer Scott Nago’s calls to brief him on problems in her office. About one week ago, state officials received reports about possible voter fraud on the Big Island, allegations that someone was doctoring absentee ballots, sources said. State officials then notified FBI agents, members of the public corruption team based at the FBI’s Honolulu office, sources said. It’s unclear whether the FBI will launch its own voter fraud investigation.
A source said the FBI is at least in the information gathering phase. “We can’t confirm or deny the existence of any ongoing investigation,” said Special Agent Tom Simon, an FBI spokesman. At the Hawaii County Clerk’s office’s request, two state Attorney General’s office lawyers met with Kawauchi at the AG’s office on Queen Street Thursday afternoon, according to Josh Wisch, an AG’s spokesman. The AG’s office had not asked for the meeting, Wisch said.
She met with Robyn Chun, the deputy AG who deals with election issues for the state as well as First Deputy Russell Suzuki, who previously handled state election matters before he ascended to the second-in-command post at the AG’s office. The meetings lasted for hours Thursday afternoon, a source said. Wisch refused to explain what their discussions were about. “It’s departmental policy to never confirm or deny the existence of any investigation,” Wisch said.