Voting machines demonstrated in Hilo

HILO, Hawaii: The Office of the County Clerk held a press conference on Thursday, in order to assure the public that the county is ready for the 2012 elections.

With the August 11th primary just a few weeks away, County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi – who also oversees the Elections Division – did most of the speaking at the event, before an audience of media and candidates alike. High-tech voting apparatus were demonstrated, and informational handouts were distributed.

Kawauchi outlined the many challenges the office has overcome this year, the biggest being the reapportionment process, which re-drew political lines and changed maps. Lawsuits and litigation delayed the final approval of the maps, creating an extra burden on county elections staff.

Another first this year: permanent absentee voting applications sent to every registered voter on the island.

Kawauchi explained why she believes public interest in voting appears to be on the upswing this year. The office is still trying to get the word out on election precincts, another area where there has been a shake-up this year.

On top of all the challenges, Kawauchi wanted to share the story of recent youth involvement with the clerk’s office… positive tales of young leaders learning the lawmaking process.

But one story that did not get told on Thursday… that of returning election program administrator Pat Nakamoto.

Nakamoto – a longtime county employee – was fired in January after a legislative office investigation, under the direction of County Chair Dominic Yagong and Kawauchi, uncovered alleged misbehavior at this 2,000-square-foot warehouse located at 210 Makaala Street – a leased county building that is supposed to store voting equipment. The alleged misbehavior included post election parties with alcohol, and private commercial use of the county building.

Three others elections employees were terminated because of the findings. Attorney Ted hong was hired by Nakamoto and others to fight for her reinstatement. Meanwhile, Yagong tried to reassure the public that the elections division would be ready for the primary.

According to an article in West Hawaii Today, the county Human Resources Department re-instated Nakamoto, basd on the rules governing the union grievance process.

It is unclear how or when Nakamoto will return to work – or in what capacity… on Thursday, Kawauchi introduced Nakamoto’s replacement.

Arlene Boteilho introduced the rest of the hard working staff of the division, who were given a round of applause for their efforts in overcoming the many challenges of election year 2012… although some of the hardest work – the actual primary and general election day – is still ahead.