Saturday, August 11 is the State of Hawaii’s Primary Election. It is an extremely important election as there are several nonpartisan County races that can be decided if any candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, which means, 50% plus 1. Those races include Hawaii County Mayor, County Prosecutor, and all nine County Council Members. If there is no clear majority, the top two candidates will go on to the General Election on November 6.
Polls will be open 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday. Anybody registered to vote should have received either an absentee ballot (if they requested one or are in one of three “orphan” precincts with no polling places) or a yellow card telling them where to vote. There is a list of polling locations at the Hawaii County Clerk’s web site, http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/lb-clerk-home/ — look to the left for Polling Locations, click on it, and the list will download. Voters uncertain about where they should vote may also go to the State Elections web site, www.hawaii.gov/election and use the Polling Locator, which allows one to put in an address and get the polling location.
Anybody who has an absentee ballot and has not yet returned it to the Hilo Elections Office should take it on Saturday to any polling location and turn it in.
County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi says all is set to go smoothly on Election Day, despite a reduction of five staff within the past week (two temporary workers were terminated, one last week and one Monday morning, one temporary worker resigned Wednesday, and two County employees called in sick and aren’t expected back until after Saturday). Kawauchi says she’d anticipated the need for extra workers and has personnel in training.
Election Day is always somewhat chaotic, no matter how well prepared a County is. Maui County Clerk Jeff Kuwada, whose first election as Maui County Clerk was in 2004, says hundreds of calls come in on Primary Day…he says he estimates his office will answer more than a thousand questions by the end of the day. Calls range from Precinct Officials checking in to concerns about physical facilities or non-working keys, to getting information on proper protocols, to dealing with minor errors in voting lists or in voters going to the wrong polling location.
Kuwada says traditionally, all the County Clerks and the State Elections Office have worked together to be as well prepared as possible and to support each other to ensure the day goes off without a hitch. Since questions about the Hawaii County Elections Office readiness for the Primary started surfacing July 23 when Kawauchi unexpectedly closed the Hilo Elections Office with concerns about possible fraud (since resolved), Kuwada and State Elections Office spokesman Rex Quidilla have stressed they are part of a team dedicated to offer Kawauchi whatever support she might request to make Saturday’s election successful.
With all the publicity about concerns over Hawaii County’s preparedness and in the wake of the staff departures Wednesday, Kuwada sent an email to all the Maui County Council members assuring them Maui County is ready. But he also warned them that if Hawaii County has problems, that could delay final results being released, especially in the national races for U. S. Senate and U. S. House.
Kawauchi has not provided the number of voters who voted at Early Walk In Voting, which ended Thursday at 4 p.m., but as of August 4, more than 2,000 had done so, and more than 10,000 absentee ballots had been returned. In all, 101,758 voters are registered in Hawaii County.
The first set of election results will be available after the polls close on every island, usually by 7 p.m., and will include absentee voters and walk in voters. The final printout will likely not come until after midnight Saturday. Results will be posted here at www.bigislandnewscenter.com. Radio listeners may join Island Issues host Sherry Bracken and Hawaii247.com editor Karin Stanton on the radio Sunday morning for a results recap, at 6:30 a.m. on KKOA 107.7 fm and at 8 a.m. on LAVA 105.3 fm. The program will be posted here at www.bigislandnewscenter.com, down on the right.