Walk-in voting to be held Friday for 2 Big Island precincts

The Hawaii Office of Elections says a walk-in vote will be conducted Friday for the two Big Island precincts that were postponed due to Iselle.

Polls at Hawaii Paradise Community Center and Keonepoko Elementary failed to open during the primary election this past Saturday after officials said impassable roads left much of that community isolated.

There are more than 8,000 registered voters in those precincts and the Hawaii County Clerk says the office received over 1,400 early voting ballots from those areas. That means just over 6,800 votes are up for grabs.

Now, Primary Election Day will be held six days after it was supposed to. Polling will be conducted at Keonepoko Elementary between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., consolidated two precincts into one site.

“We’re told that all major roads are clear right now and they’re working on clearing private driveways on an as-needed basis,” said chief election officer Scott Nago.

Because access to those precincts have been restored, the state has decided to do walk-in, electronic voting, instead of mail-in ballots. Election officials say it’s also the quickest way to handle the remaining 6,800 ballots.

Polling will only be open to voters who are registered at those precincts who have not voted.

“Do you think that gives voters enough time when they’re dealing with issues like lack of water and lack of electricity?” KHON2 asked.

“On Saturday, even though the polling places were closed, a lot of voters still showed up to try to vote or go to the polling place,” Nago said.

But how will the state spread the word about this update, when some voters, still don’t have power?

“We’re about to send a letter to all voters stating the time, place, some of the provisions of the polling place. The counties are also going to post signs on the highways,” Nago said.

With several races, including the U.S. Senate, County Council, and House District 4, being decided on Friday, candidates have all week to campaign.

“Hopefully they understand that they’ve gone through this very personal crisis where day-to-day living is very tough, and it’s a hard thing and I hope they’re respectful of that,” said Stewart Maeda, Hawaii County Clerk.

Officials say election results for the remaining precincts will be released about an hour after the polls close on Friday.

However, the decision is drawing some criticism.

Philip Matlage, Democratic party chair for the Puna district, says his concerns about Friday’s election include getting the word out to the voters that they need to show up at the school that day in person.

“We are facing a walk-in election where people are going to have to drive around 10 to 15 miles on a weekday instead of a Saturday and without adequate notice that an election is happening. I’m afraid the entire process will be called into question,” he said.

That sentiment is echoed by Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign. Peter Boylan, communications director, released the following statement:

“It is disappointing that the State Office of Elections reversed course and decided to hold walk in voting on Friday. A lot of voters in those two precincts are without power and water and many of the roads are blocked with debris, isolating large pockets of the community. It is unrealistic to think people struggling to find basic necessities and get out of their homes will have the ability to go to the polls Friday. There is very limited electricity and phone service in some of these areas and it is unclear how the state will notify people that there will be a vote. Our campaign is currently reviewing all legal options at this time.”

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