Even counting the County Clerk’s Office staff pulled from across the hall to help out during the contentious 2012 election, it still cost less to run that election than the two elections prior. That’s the finding of an outside auditor the County Council hired last year to compare the election costs. The audit, scheduled to be discussed Tuesday by the council Finance Committee, found that the 2012 election cost $1.5 million, compared to $1.8 million for the 2008 election, the most recent other presidential election. In 2010, when fewer voters came to the polls, the election also cost $1.5 million. The cost per ballot cast was $17 in 2008, $16.19 in 2010 and $14.40 in 2012, the audit found. The 2012 election proceedings became a hot political issue when former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi fired the division chief and three other elections staff after alleging the former warehouse manager used the site to conduct his own sign-making and screen-printing business, and stored alcohol and held post-election drinking parties there.
The state has seized control of elections on the Big Island due in the wake of voting delays that plagued the county’s primary vote. State elections officials said they have “no confidence” in County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi and made the move to avoid problems in the November general election. “They didn’t feel we could run a successful general election in the County of Hawaii if we continued on this current path,” said State Chief Election Officer Scott Nago. “This has never been done before.” Nago said meetings last month with Kawauchi and elections workers convinced him that the county clerk hasn’t done enough to solve the voting delays that marred the August primary. On the primary election night, Gov. Neil Abercrombie kept Big Island polls open an hour-and-a-half later after Kawauchi told state officials that 25 of 40 polling stations did not open on time.
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.”
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.
The Hawaii State League of Women Voters (LWVHI) is asking state and county elections officials to take definitive action on the primary election day mishaps that transpired on the Big Island. The blunders — including the delayed opening of 13 Hawaii County polling places — have been attributed to the poor management by Big Island elections clerk Jamae Kawauchi. “This year, we have been troubled by a number of serious issues on the island of Hawai‘i which cumulatively may have diminished voters’ confidence in the Hawai‘i County Elections Office,” reads the LWVHI press release. “We are concerned about an apparent lack of communication and transparency from the County Clerk with the press and public. Press conferences may have explained prior actions, but the time lag between actions and explanations fostered an air of mistrust.
Hawaii County police say they have launched an investigation into an allegation of voter fraud on the Big Island. In a brief statement sent out at 4:26 p.m. today, Capt. Mitchell Kanehailua of the Criminal Investigation Division said the investigation is based on information provided by the Hawaii County Office of Elections involving elections conducted in 2010. According to Kanehailua’s statement, voter fraud is a class “C” felony. Such crimes carry a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
“If you don’t know the game of basketball and you’re going to run a tournament, good luck.” Those were the words of Hawaii County Council Member Dennis Onishi, who spoke before the state Elections Commission at a routine meeting Wednesday. He was alluding to primary election day fiascos on the Big Island that culminated in the delayed opening of 13 polling places. State elections officials blamed the mishaps on Hawaii County clerk Jamae Kawauchi. She’s been on the job since 2010, but this is her first election. Everyone at the meeting — commissioners, election officials, other county clerks — agreed that Kawauchi’s inexperience in running elections fueled the problems. Yet Kawauchi was the only county clerk not in attendance Wednesday. Those who testified before the commission, including Onishi, suggested that state elections officials ought to send an expert to Kawauchi’s office who can facilitate election-day preparation and implementation. Onishi estimated that only one employee currently working in Hawaii County’s Elections Office has run an election before. But commissioners and state elections chief Scott Nago emphasized that they can’t force that on Kawauchi. She herself must be the one who seeks assistance, said Nago.
After more than four hours of public testimony, a report from the County Clerk and discussion, the County Council simply closed the file at a special meeting Monday in Hilo. The council didn’t have any actionable items on the special meeting agenda, so could not vote on motions or resolutions other than to accept a report on the Primary Election. Council Chairman Dominic Yagong called the meeting to receive a report from County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi, who as the county’s chief elections official oversaw the problem-plagued Primary Election. Her report largely blamed the state Office of Elections, which she said did not clear up problems she identified last year — mostly involving planning, communication and listening to input — and has taken no responsibility for “serious mishaps” on election day.
The Big Island became the epicenter of primary election day fiascos when the delayed opening of numerous polling places forced Gov. Neil Abercrombie to issue an emergency proclamation authorizing them to stay open for an extra 90 minutes. But that was just the latest snafu in a series of problems that all trace back to Jamae Kawauchi, the Hawaii County clerk who has been on the job since 2010. The incidents have raised doubts about whether she’ll stay on board for the general election. The state Office of Elections on Thursday released a scathing report faulting Kawauchi for her mismanagement. Rex Quidilla, state elections spokesperson, said the problems occurred because of a failure in leadership training and an unwillingness to ask for help. “We at every turn provided offered our assistance,” he said. “We were met with reassurances that that wouldn’t be necessary.” Meanwhile, and in the aftermath of the report, Kawauchi has gone on the offensive.
The state Office of Elections issued its report Thursday concerning how the County of Hawaii handled the Primary Election. In a six-page report, Scott Nago, head of the state election’s office, ripped into Jamae Kawauchi, who as County Clerk also serves as the Hawaii County election chief. Nago said he sent a state staff member to observe the election at the Hilo county building and found ” poor planning, implementation, and leadership by the County Clerk.” Nago, however, praised county staff and volunteers who “did their best under the circumstances and were able to get through the election.” He said while the public’s confidence had been undermine, but the problems did not meet the standards used to determine whether final results might have been impacted.
In a scathing six-page report, the state Office of Elections criticized Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi after several problems at Big Island polling places during Saturday’s primary election. In the report, state elections chief Scott Nago said his staff witnessed “poor planning, implementation and leadership by the County Clerk. Essentially, the County Clerk on election day is supposed to be like a field general with a plan of attack, who acts confidently, and has the support of his or her troops,” the report said. “The County Clerk was in no way, shape, or form that type of leader.” The report also slammed Kawauchi for not knowing how many polls opened late on the Big Island. “Specifically, the County Clerk at no specific time had a handle on how many polling places out of the forty in the county opened late.”
Hawaii: Election Officials Conducting Own Investigation into Big Island Election Issues | Big Island Now
A meeting Tuesday with Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi about Saturday’s election problems did not provide enough answers for state election officials who are now conducting their own investigation. Chief Election Officer Scott Nago met Tuesday in Hilo with all of the state’s county clerks and most of the counties’ chief election administrators. State elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said today that such a meeting is typically done after an election to review procedures and problems. While Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi attended, Hawai`i County’s interim elections administrator, Arlene Boteilho did not. According to Quidilla, Kawauchi did not give a reason why. Boteilho reportedly went out on sick leave before Saturday’s primary election. She had been named the temporary replacement for Pat Nakamato, the county’s longtime elections administrator who was fired early this year. Nakamoto was reinstated to her job following a union grievance procedure but was placed by Kawauchi on paid administrative leave immediately upon her return in late July.
Hawaii: Hawaii Elections Officials Try to Get to the Bottom of Elections Day ‘Chaos’ | Hawaii Reporter
County election officials in all four counties will meet today with Office of Elections officials to review problems they encountered during Saturday’s Primary Election. They are hoping to make adjustments by the November 6 General Election. State officials will attempt to learn from Big Island County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi exactly what happened on Saturday that led to “chaos” and as many as 25 polling places opening late. At first, state elections officials heard there were three polling places of 40 that did not open on time, but by midday that number increased to 11 and then to 25. Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the State office of elections, said they learned about the delays from Oahu reporters who received press releases from Kawauchi.
County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi told reporters today that a review of the Big Island’s voter registry turned up irregularities, but nothing that should have an impact on the upcoming primary election. Kawauchi said the review conducted from July 21-23, which included a weekend, found 50 to 60 people registered more than once, as well as five people who voted twice in the 2010 election. She said the irregularities did not appear to be “systemic” or concentrated in any particular area. She said the duplicates could be attributed to clerical errors, such as incorrect data being inputted. Some also involved slight differences in names, such as a missing “Jr.” or “Sr.” The duplicate registrations are being corrected and the voters who voted twice two years ago will be contacted to determine how that occurred, Kawauchi said. None of the duplicated votes occurred at the same precinct, she said.
After a week of not responding to reporters’ inquiries as well as calls from state elections and political campaign officials, Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi told reporters at the State Capitol Tuesday why she closed her office in Hilo for a day last week and went to the state Attorney General’s office. She said her office discovered several dozen Hawaii Island voters with duplicate voter registrations and found about four people who voted twice in the same elections in 2010. Sources told Hawaii News Now this is a case of a rookie county clerk who’s never overseen an election over reacting to some routine voter problems that should have been discovered months or weeks ago, not less than three weeks before the primary election. After meeting with state’s chief election officer and the county clerks of the other three counties in Honolulu, Kawauchi spoke to reporters in the State Senate chambers, where elections officials are preparing to count votes in the Aug. 11 primary. She said she closed her office July 23 to conduct an audit of Hawaii County voter rolls and found 50 to 60 Big Island voters were registered to vote twice.
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 possible voter fraud case on the Big Island is the subject of an investigation, a law enforcement source told Hawaii News Now Thursday. The probe focuses on allegations that some absentee ballots were improperly “doctored,” the source said. A second source, a state government employee, said Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi spent much of Thursday afternoon meeting with a lawyer at the state Attorney General’s office in Honolulu. Further details about the allegations or about what she spent hours meeting with a deputy attorney general about were not available Thursday night. With just 15 days to go until the primary election, Hawaii County election officials are re-sending some voter registration notices after a first batch was sent with wrong information. The state’s chief election officer, Scott Nago, is worried the mix-up could prompt candidates to challenge election outcomes and upset that county clerk has not briefed him on what’s happening since she closed her office for an audit on Monday.
In an unprecedented move, the State’s Chief Election Officer has weighed in on controversy surrounding the Hawaii County Elections office. Scott Nago, Chief Elections Officer for the State, sent a letter to Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi Wednesday afternoon. He said his office has been fielding calls as to what is going on in Hawaii County. He said Kawauchi’s decision to close the elections office on July 23 and her failure to thoroughly communicate to the other election offices and the media as to the reasons for the closure has unnecessarily lead to significant speculation in the public about the integrity of the elections. He went on to say, “This is simply unacceptable on the part of a fellow election administrator. The public relies on us to be assured that their elections are safe and secure.” Nago’s letter goes on, “The lack of communication of your office in the last few days has seriously undermined the hard work that the election community does to build the trust of the public in the integrity of the electoral system.” He says a written request sent by the State Elections Office to Kawauchi on July 23 asking for information has gone unanswered.