BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Gov. Neil Abercrombie has asked his appointed attorney general, David Louie, to investigate problems that arose during the November 6 General Election on Oahu, saying “the handling of election operations raises legitimate concerns.”
In a statement issued Monday, Abercrombie announced he asked Louie “to investigate the State Office of Elections and the circumstances that resulted in a shortage of paper ballots at numerous Oahu polling places on Nov. 6.”
Abercrombie maintained there was a “serious problem has tarnished the election process and eroded public confidence.”
State elections officials confirmed 24 out of 140 polling places on Oahu ran out of paper ballots during the General Election. The number was originally reported as 5 polling places, but by the day after the election, that number had increased by nearly five times.
The State Elections Commission moved up its meeting from December to Tuesday, November 27 to address the issues.
“I do not plan to simply stand on the side and wait to see what the Office of Elections’ own review may bring. At a minimum, we must consider new technologies that can help bring our election process into the 21st Century,” Abercrombie said.
The Honolulu City Council passed a unanimous resolution on November 14 calling for the Governor to look into several issues that left voters feeling as if the elections had not been run fairly. Many stood in long lines unable to vote for as long as three hours while others left without voting because they were unable to wait.
Abercrombie said the governor’s office does not have that authority. However, he can propose new legislation this January to try to ensure problems that existed during the November 6 General Election don’t happen again in future elections.
“The right to vote is one of our most cherished duties as U.S. citizens. Therefore, we must ensure that our voting process runs smoothly and efficiently,” Abercrombie said.
One of Abercrombie’s proposals has been endorsed by Democrat lawmakers in previous sessions.
“This January, I will be proposing as part of my legislative package a measure to move our state toward 100 percent mail-in voting, which has been effective in other parts of the country. Moreover, absentee ballots have seen a steady increase and use over the last several elections, and there has been no evidence to question the accuracy and security of these ballots relative to traditional methods.”
State Elections Officer Scott Nago said the Office has no comment regarding the investigation and took no position on the governor’s proposal for all mail in ballots.
Nago added: “As it relates to all mail voting, the office takes no position as this is a policy issue for the Legislature. When the matter comes up for hearing at the Legislature, the office will provide technical comments.”
League of Women Voters President Beppie Shapiro said in an earlier statement that in addition to ballot shortages and long lines, voters encountered other problems ranging from incorrect ballots to excessive wait times for determination of eligibility to vote.
Just after the election, the League of Women Voters called on the Legislature to take action.
“These voter access problems undermine the most fundamental feature of a democracy, a citizen’s right to vote. With Hawaii’s dismal voter participation rate receiving national attention, the League is distressed to learn that many people who tried to vote in Tuesday’s election found the process so onerous that they gave up and did not complete ballots. This is unfair to candidates as well as to voters,” Shapiro said on November 7.
Problems that occurred during the election will also be addressed Tuesday by the State Elections Commission beginning at 10 a.m. in the State Office Tower.