Election officials prepare for Iselle’s fallout

Could Iselle affect Saturday’s primary election, especially since some emergency shelters will be used as polling places?

Officials do have plans in place, just in case certain polling places need to be used as emergency shelters and if there’s a power outage.

Mother Nature has always followed her own agenda, and this time around, the chief election officer believes the show will go on.

“It’s going to have minimal impact on Saturday, so we’re gearing to put on our election on Saturday,” said Chief Election Officer Scott Nago.

However, the state election office is getting ready for the fallout of Iselle.

“We can consolidate polling places, in the past we’ve extended hours those kind of things. Move polling places when we had the earthquake on the Big Island. Those kinds of things,” Nago said.

But some polling places, mostly schools, are also used as emergency shelters when natural disasters hit.

It’s up to each county to decide which shelter to open and for the City and County of Honolulu, that decision could come as soon as Thursday.

City officials say they will try to avoid using polling places as primary evacuation areas, or they could combine both.

“That will be done on a case-by-case basis. Some of these shelters are really, really big. We may only use the gymnasium and they could do their polling in other room,” said John Cummings with the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management.

Officials don’t recall an election that has been postponed because of a storm, but Ed Teixeira, former State Civil Defense Vice Director, remembers when record rainfall hit the Big Island in 2000.

“It cut off Pahala and Naalehu and those areas, so we had to ask the (National) Guard to fly in a helicopters to pick up the voting results,” he said.

Emergency and election officials say they’re still working with each other on contingency plans. But they agree, it’s life and safety first.

“I think we’ve got bigger issues to worry about than voting,” Nago said.

Election officials also say if there’s a power outage on Saturday, their system is set to run on backup battery, so voting at the polls can continue, as long as there’s still enough daylight for the voters to see.

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