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This video is part of an Election Wrap Special by Big Island Video News, and incorporates digital materials gathered by Big Island Chronicle, Big Island News Center, Hawaii247, Tim Bryan and David Corrigan
HILO, Hawaii: These temporary workers seemed a little confused outside the County Building at 4 in the morning on Saturday.
Big Island Video News joined Big Island Chronicle journalist Tiffany Edwards Hunt outside the Hawaii County Clerk’s office, where sheriffs officers stood guard at the building’s only entrance, as the first phase of “delivery and collection” was underway.
Temporary workers and legislative staff assisted in the transportation of ballot boxes to the different polling locations around the island via a fleet of buses.
At this point in time, the only thing that was certain was that this process would to go down as one of the most critically scrutinized elections ever held in Hawaii County.
In the weeks prior, County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi promised the island that the elections would go off smoothly, despite the fact that she and Council Chair Dominic Yagong opted to terminate long standing, experienced elections administrator Pat Nakamoto, and other elections staff, earlier this year.
Kawauchi has been criticized for her lack of communication with the press and the state elections office. Then, there’s been the other terminations and dismissals… the clerk would never confirm it, but apparently a number of other temporary workers left the job just days before the election. Even the acting elections administrator reportedly took sick leave.
Also, disturbing office closures with little notice and short explanation. Most recently, an unstaffed Kona office led to a change in absentee ballot procedure. Confusion arose as to where voters should turn in their ballots.
Right before the day of the election, Hawaii GOP leaders put the state on notice.
Hawaii republican Party Chairman David Chang stated in a media release that “last-minute closures, unannounced changes in procedures, and unexplained personnel changes have compromised the election on the Big Island. Action must be taken to guarantee that the Big Island voters who have the legal right to cast absentee ballots will be able to exercise that right.”
And the first reports from Kona precints on election day: late openings led to long lines and disappointment for early voters.
Sherry Bracken of Lava 105.3 reported that there were four confirmed late openings in Kona: Kahakai School, Kona Vistas, Holualoa, and Kona Palisades.
Bracken also reported that State Senator Josh Green made a formal request through the State Office of Elections to keep the polls open in West Hawaii for two extra hours.
And in East Hawaii… Tulsi Gabbard supporter and well known attorney Brian DeLima told Big Island Chronicle reporters he was filing a formal complaint, as he met with the Clerk outside the building.
Concerns were validated by mid-day, when Governor Neil Abercrombie announced his executive proclamation, extending the hours at Big Island polling locations to 7:30 p.m. The polls were supposed to close by 6 p.m.
In his proclamation, the governor said more than a half the polling places on Hawaii Island did not open by 7 a.m. as required by law.
Out on the street, the voting continued. Here at Hawaiian Paradise Park, and in Hilo. There were no problems for Kent Bolinger, who voted here at the Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium. Bolinger said he was aware of the proclomation before he arrived to cast his vote.
Citizen Rebecca Ostertag saw the extension as a good thing.
But, things were not going smoothly for members of the press. A rumored press conference with the clerk here outside the county building never materialized. Updates were sent out to an incomplete list of news media. Late into the night, reporters shut out of the vote count staged what seemd like an “occupy county elections” demonstration, working on lawn chairs and squeezing power for their laptops where they could.
Mayor Billy Kenoi shared his thoughts on the situation with Hawaii247 editor Karin Stanton that night.
(The next part of this series will focus on the mayoral race: Behind the Scenes)