Ballot gaffe stalls results
By CHRISTOPHER WEBER
HONOLULU — State elections officials acknowledged Wednesday that they failed to order enough paper ballots for Oahu, causing long waits for a turn at electronic voting machines and leading many people to walk away in frustration without casting a vote.
Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said an investigation into Election Day problems could take weeks, but initial findings show officials simply underestimated the number of ballots needed.
“It was not related to turnout. We should have been able to account for that, no matter how many people show up,” Quidilla said. “We made initial guesses about the number of ballots, and they were incorrect.”
Across Hawaii, voter turnout was down about 5 percentage points from the 2008 presidential election.
At least 20 locations in Mililani, Waianae, Kailua, Waimanalo and elsewhere ran short of paper ballots before the close of polls Tuesday. Voters already in line by 6 p.m. were told they could still cast an electronic ballot, but many decided not to wait as lines snaked out doors and onto sidewalks.
Most polling stations had only one electronic voting machine on site. Additional paper ballots were rushed to the voting stations, but many did not arrive in time, if at all.
Quidilla said there’s no way to know how many voters decided lines were too long and left without casting a ballot.
At Maili Elementary, some people drove into the parking lot, saw the crowds, and turned around, according to voter Debra Jacobs. People in line were “pretty disgusted … and angry,” she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Some precincts reported ballot shortages as early as 1 p.m. Volunteers at Hokulani Elementary waited nearly four hours for replacements, according to Lance D. Collins, an attorney retained by the Green Party to look into voting problems.
Collins said Green Party candidate Keiko Bonk was concerned that the lack of ballots cost her votes in her race for state representative in District 20. Bonk ran a distant second to Democrat Calvin Say.
“I’m sure it impacted the final outcome of the race. I’m not sure it would have changed the result, but it definitely doesn’t give a clear idea of what the voters of this district intended,” Collins said.
Ben Cayetano, who lost the race for Honolulu’s mayor to Kirk Caldwell, called the problems a result of “poor planning.” He said he sympathizes with his supporters who were unable to cast their votes for him.
“The point is not so much the result of the election, but the fact that people were denied the opportunity to exercise their rights,” Cayetano said.
Late Tuesday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie called on lawmakers to review voting procedures. The state’s chief of elections, Scott Nago, said his staff would meet to see what they can do differently to avoid similar problems in the future. The state hasn’t run out of ballots before, at least not on this scale, Nago said.
Abercrombie declined to keep the polls open late, as he did when technical and operational problems occurred in Hawaii County during primary voting in August.
Voting on the Big Island went smoothly Tuesday, officials said.
Nago announced last month that the state was rescinding Hawaii County’s responsibility for the general election after the glitches in the primary vote.
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