A new date has been set for voting in remote Hawaii precincts that were closed on election day by a tropical storm that clobbered the area, but it’s unclear how thousands of voters will find out in time to cast ballots Friday. The sprawling Puna District could provide the deciding votes in the tight U.S. Senate race between Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. The Democratic primary was too close to call after officials tallied votes over the weekend. Election officials said Tuesday they were notifying voters by mail and contacting them in other ways. Many in the area, however, remain without power and water and say they have more immediate concerns.
“I ran into a couple good friends in Pahoa town and asked them if they voted, and they looked at me like I was crazy,” said Roy Lozano, a chiropractor who was running for a county council seat in a neighboring district. “It’s unconscionable that they’re holding the election, even on Friday. People aren’t thinking about elections,” he said.
Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said officials are sending letters and relying on the local county clerk to make voters aware. The county clerk’s office is putting up banners and handing out fliers to school children to tell their parents about the vote, said program administrator Pat Matsumoto. Quidilla said the office was assured by Hawaii Civil Defense, Hawaii County and the attorney general’s office that voters would be able to get to polling places.