County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi closed the Hilo Elections Office on Monday for an audit of the county voter registration list, an action a state elections official called unprecedented and a county councilman called “fishy.” The Kona Elections Office remained open, and people coming to the Hilo office were directed across the hall to Council Services, where clerks took names and telephone numbers and distributed elections materials. Bernice Mau, clerk for the City and County of Honolulu, which administers the statewide voter registration list, said it’s standard operating procedure to send the counties printed copies of their voter lists. “Every election we send them to all the counties,” Mau said. But closing the office just 20 days before the Aug. 11 primary to review the list raised eyebrows in Hilo, where the Elections Office has undergone a rocky six months. Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for the state Elections Office, said his office didn’t hear about the closure and audit until late Monday. “We’ve not had it happen in the past,” he said of the audit.
Kawauchi told West Hawaii Today she wanted to give the list a good review before sending the poll books out to the printer. She declined to say what her office is looking for. An employee from the county’s Information Technology Office was seen inside the Elections Office, hooking up computers to be tested. “We’re looking at the list to make sure it’s clean and accurate,” Kawauchi said. “We’re trying to be as thorough as possible to run a fair and well-run election. … This is part of us making sure we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”
The office came under fire after Kawauchi fired Elections Office Administrator Pat Nakamoto, warehouse manager Glen Shikuma and two other employees following an investigation that alleged drinking, storage of alcohol and running a private business out of the county elections warehouse on Makaala Street. Nakamoto has since been reinstated after a grievance process conducted by the administration, but she has not returned to the job.