State elections officials say they will take back oversight of Election Day voting on the Big Island because problems relating to the Aug. 11 primary have not been adequately addressed. Hawaii Chief of Elections Scott Nago said Tuesday he is rescinding state elections responsibilities that had been delegated to Big Island clerk Jamae Kawauchi. A small group of staff members hired by the state will take over Big Island Election Day activities, according to state elections spokesman Rex Quidilla. One of them is Lori Tomczyk, the office’s Oahu-based ballot operations section head who helped out with state elections operations in Hilo on the day of the primary. Tomczyk, who has been on the job since 2000, will be filling in as lead administrator. “We’re injecting our supervision and expertise,” said Quidilla, adding that little would actually be changing in terms of personnel. “This is something we see being done only under these current circumstances. With a great deal of hand-wringing did we come to this point. We certainly hope that this isn’t something that has to be done in the future.”
Hawaii law allows the state to assign certain responsibilities to county clerks when elections involve both state and county issues because state headquarters are located on Oahu. “We delegate to the neighbor island counties because we’re not there,” Quidilla said.
Such responsibilities include the operation of polling places and the control center and delivery and collection of ballots at polling places. (Counties are strictly tasked with voter registration and absentee voting.) But Kawauchi’s handling of the primary election prompted the Hawaii Office of Elections to take the unprecedented action of re-assuming the responsibilities normally given to neighbor island county clerks.