Members of the State Elections Commission expressed frustration with troubled Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi at their monthly meeting Tuesday as state elections officials made plans to send a key staffer back to the Big Island to help troubleshoot on Election Day. During the primary election Aug. 11, more than dozen Hawaii County polling places opened late, causing Gov. Neil Abercrombie to order all election sites on the island to be kept open an hour and a half late, delaying election returns statewide. Tuesday, the county clerks from three counties were present at the election commission meeting, but Kawauchi was absent, just as she was missing from the August meeting. Her attendance there was not mandatory but in the cooperative community of election officials, her absence created concern less than two months before the general election.
“I mean I don’t understand, she’s new, she has no training, but she doesn’t want to take your help?” Commissioner Zale Okazaki asked Scott Nago, the state’s chief election officer who has no power to hire and fire Kawauchi, since the Hawaii County Council oversees her. “I cannot answer that. I don’t know why she’s resisting, or if she is,” Nago answered. “Is she asking the right questions?” Okazaki asked Nago. “At times yes, at times, no,” said Nago. “And we try to point her in the right direction. We want a smooth election for the whole state. I don’t necessarily believe the system is broken.”
Commissioners expressed frustration over what they saw as the lack of interest by Kawauchi in getting training for herself or key staff after suffering big problems on primary day. “It seems like one or two people are not doing what they’re supposed to do and there’s nothing we can do to make that person do the right job,” said Danny Young, an elections commissioner.