by Andrew Walden
The Hawaii Election Commission today heard angry testimony about failure of Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago to provide sufficient ballots to 51 polling places on Oahu.
Nago had little to say for himself. Showing Commissioners a t-shirt which read, “Election 2012 One for the Record Books,” Nago said, “we just did not get the formula right” and promised, “It won’t happen again.” Nago laid blame for the miscalculation at the feet of longtime election worker Lori Tomczyk who Nago dismissed after the election.
Commissioners weren’t very impressed. Several challenged Nago over why the Election Office did not ship ballots equivalent to the number of registered voters. Commissioner Danny Young said, “It’s a fiasco, Fifty-one precincts and not having enough ballots. I’m still not understanding why its not possible to send enough ballots.”
Outgoing Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi called Nago's t-shirt, printed with a Hawaii County pollbook design, a personal insult.
Evoking memories of the civil rights movement, Marsha Joyner, past president of the Martin Luther King Jr coalition told Election Commissioners that the failure of the Election Office to supply sufficient ballots to numerous precincts Election Day “amounts to voter suppression” and is a felony violation of the Voting Rights Act Title 42 Chapter 20.
Guy Archer, former Hawaii Deputy Attorney General and former Maui County Corporation Counsel informed the Commissioners that the local chapter of Americans for Democratic Action had asked him to evaluate filing a federal civil rights lawsuit under USC Title 42, Chapter 21 Subchapter 1983. Archer told commissioners that if the commission steps up, the lawsuit may not be necessary.
Environmental activist Carroll Cox said he believes “there is criminal intent here,” and “to allow (Nago) to stay on is absolutely unimaginable.” Cox indicated that written questions he sent to the Elections Office to be forwarded to Commission had been withheld from the Commissioners.
Former Election Commissioner Warner Kimo Sutton called for an FBI investigation of “this total failure by the elections chief Nago.”
Janet Mason, Vice President of the League of Women Voters presented a detailed analysis of election operations and told commissioners, “The League concurs with much of the criticism of these operations.”
State Senator Sam Slom, who as minority leader appoints two of the nine commissioners, testified: “There must be a change in leadership…. Some have called for a return of the election under control of the Lt Governor. I do not support this effort…. I want to ensure a strong, independent, and committed election commission.” Slom spoke against going to all-mail-in elections explaining: “I am concerned about possible voter fraud with all mail-in and/or electronic balloting.”
Mason also testified against moving the elections back to the control of a partisan elected official, saying: “an independent Chief Elections Officer together with an appointed Elections Commission, continues to permit a reasonable amount of nonpartisan elections administration, independent of any political party or any special interest group.”
After hearing testimony, Commissioners went into closed executive session “to consider and evaluate the role/performance of the Office of Elections and Chief Elections Officer in preparing for, and conducting, the 2012 General Election.” Emerging an hour later, they announced a decision to form a two-person subcommittee to investigate and report back at the next Election Commission meeting in early January.
The Legislative session convenes January 16, 2013. The Election Commission’s action or failure to act will weigh heavily in any Legislative discussion of proposed changes to the organization of Hawaii elections.
LINK: PDF of Written Testimony from LWV and Sen. Slom
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