Tuesday | September 27, 2016
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Governor urges mail-only voting


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced his support for mail-in voting Monday as he criticized ballot shortages during the Nov. 6 general election.

Abercrombie said in a written statement that he will propose a mail-only election to the Legislature when it convenes in January, noting its use in other states and the recent election blunder.

Hawaii offers a hybrid election, with voters able to vote either by mail through absentee ballots or at traditional polling places.

Recent logistical errors have led to several high-profile election day mishaps, with ballot shortages on Oahu during the general election and misdelivery of election items in Hawaii County during the Aug. 6 primary election, delaying results and frustrating voters.

In his statement, Abercrombie focused on the most recent controversy — ballot shortages — and said he has asked Attorney General David Louie to investigate.

“This serious problem has tarnished the election process and eroded public confidence,” he said.

Scott Nago, state chief elections officer, said his office doesn’t have a position on the idea but noted it might be easier to stick with one voting process.

“At this point, it’s a 50-50 kind of thing of using both,” he said. “It’s not the most efficient way of running an election.”

Mail-in voting allows voters to submit ballots before election day, a practice that appears to be catching on, at least on the Big Island.

County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi said 27,787 people submitted absentee ballots — either through early voting at polling places or by mail — during the 2008 general election.

During the 2012 general election, 31,726 voters submitted absentee ballots.

Kawauchi said she would support a mail-only election if the state provided the counties with enough help to make the transition.

“If we have adequate resources and staffing to accomplish that, I would say that it is a good option for voters,” she said.

During its meeting today in Honolulu, the state Elections Commission will discuss both ballot shortages and future management of elections in Hawaii County.

The state took over running the general election in the county in response to primary day problems that included the late opening of 13 polling places.

Nago said his office didn’t propose the agenda item and didn’t know if anything in particular will be recommended.

“We have always said when we did this election this was not a long-term solution,” he said.

Kawauchi said she will attend the meeting and advocate return of control to the county.

“I think Hawaii County has more than the adequate resources and ability to run an election,” she said.

The county’s general election appeared to run smoothly, though Nago confirmed that a Kona-based poll worker had to be removed after allowing 10 voters to add their names to the poll book on election day.

The poll book identifies who is registered to vote in that precinct.

“They were all registered voters, but eight of them were not supposed to be voting in the ballot box,” he said, referring to the polling location.

It doesn’t appear that any of them voted twice, Nago said.

The ballots can’t be removed once submitted.

Nago said he didn’t know which polling place that occurred.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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