Despite several setbacks in the primary election process, Sen. Brian Schatz has won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat.
After the first printout Friday night, Schatz received 115,397 votes or 48.5% versus challenger Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s 113,628 votes or 47.8%.
The second and final printout included eight absentee ballots that were dropped off in-person Friday. Four were for Schatz and four were for Hanabusa. The previous tally listed 12 ballots, but four were not valid, according to officials.
Technically, Schatz and Hanabusa both won a precinct. Schatz won 04-01 while Hanabusa won 04-02, and 04-01 is the larger precinct.
Schatz will go on to face Republican Cam Cavasso in the general election on November 4.
In addition to thanking his family and his supporters, Sen. Schatz reflected on the entire experience.
“This was an extraordinary week for all of us and the work that we put in, not on the campaign side, but on the community side to help people to try to recover. This was a very difficult time for the people of Puna,” he said. “What I saw was people in Puna, people in West Hawaii, people in East Hawaii, people from Maui, Oahu, Kauai pitching in to help our community to recover and it was one of my proudest moments as a Hawaii citizen. Not as a Hawaii state senator but as a member of this community.”
“Have you thought about your next chapter in your political career?” KHON2 asked Rep. Hanabusa. “No, I have not,” she replied. “I mean, I’m still a member of Congress and I still have my term to fill out and I will do that as I’ve always done with the people of Hawaii in my heart and acting in their best interest.”
When asked if she would challenge the results, Hanabusa said, “I have no idea what we will do… That was a request made by a lot of people here was to keep on going because of the fact that they want their vote counted, but I don’t know if people will feel that way a week from now when their electricity is back on and they’re able to move around. But not withstanding, people are hurt and they’re still hurting out here.”
The new numbers from Friday’s primary did not change the results for any of the races in question.
As for those 800 uncounted ballots from Maui, chief elections officer Scott Nago says the error was caught during post-election audits. “They were counted, but the transmission wasn’t done. It wasn’t completed,” he told KHON2.
Nago admits that the error was discovered earlier this week, but not revealed publicly until Friday evening. “We were doing the audits. In case we found any more, we were just going to do it all at one time,” he said.
Nago says a similar error has occurred in the past, but not to this scale. “The gap was actually a timing issue, so this was the last card. So when we reconciled that night, it looked like it was there, but when we did the actual printout in the morning, it wasn’t there,” he said.
Nago says the office will review its procedures to ensure future errors are caught earlier.
In the following video, KHON2’s Gina Mangieri breaks down the numbers after the first printout:
As polls closed in Puna, the Office of Elections announced that the results released Friday will include more than just votes from the Big Island.
Election officials said they discovered that a card containing 800 mail-in ballots from Maui had not been counted. The card was never lost, it just did not transmit correctly, officials said.
The additional votes could affect the outcome of two Maui races: State Senate District 6 and State House District 9.
“I’m stunned, I’m really stunned,” said U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. “I can’t imagine that with everything we’ve seen happen here, that in addition to that, there are votes that haven’t been counted on Maui, and the question that a lot of people of probably asking is, where else and did their vote count?”
“This is appalling and outrageous,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that the Office of Elections failed to count these ballots on Maui, and the voters of Hawai‘i are entitled to an explanation of how this occurred. We need to understand what measures will be taken to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The news comes as voters in two precincts on Hawaii Island finally got a chance to vote in the primary election, about a week after being hit by Tropical Storm Iselle.
Here is the final tally of votes that need to be counted: 1,496 mailed or early walk-in, 1,508 in-person Friday, 12 absentee ballots that were dropped off in-person Friday, and 800 uncounted ballots from Maui.
These ballots will be the deciding factor in several political races, including the U.S. Senate on the Democratic side. About 1,600 votes separate Hanabusa and Schatz, with Schatz leading.
Despite the early morning rain in Puna, Sen. Schatz, the incumbent, was out on the side of the road with supporters campaigning one last time before the polls close at 6 p.m.
In the days before the election, he, along with Rep. Hanabusa, set aside their campaign hats and focused instead on providing relief supplies for the victims of Iselle. But on Friday, both candidates were stumping for votes, one day after a judge ruled against Rep. Hanabusa’s attempt to block the election.
“We’re into the campaign phase,” Sen. Schatz said. “It’s Election Day and we’re excited, trying to get as much support as we can, and we feel great.”
“I still feel that for many people the election is the farthest thing from their mind,” Rep. Hanabusa said. “Nevertheless, I hope they got the word out.”
The decision to consolidate two precincts meant that poll workers had to get an early start. They were on the job before dawn.
Of the two polling places at Keonepoko Elementary School and Hawaiian Paradise Community Center, the largest turnout was expected from those who are registered voters in the precinct who live in Hawaiian Paradise Park.
Two hours before the doors opened to voters, the staff positioned the electronic voting machines in place. Paper ballots were not available for this election.
“I thought they were going to postpone the election because all of the people who were suffering from the damage,” said voter Albert Cabrera, “but I guess they didn’t,, so that’s why I’m here. This is the only day.”
“We’re always the first in line here at Keonepoko to make a difference,” said voter Kimo Kealoha Pauole. When asked what was like not to vote back on Aug. 9 like most of the state, Pauole said, “no, we didn’t have the opportunity, but we always knew it would be back to us. Too many people were voicing their opinion about it.”
The county called in the Hele-On bus service on this Statehood Day holiday to provide a ride for those who could not drive to Keonepoko. Shuttle service was also provided by Hawaiian Discovery Transportation.
The Senate race is not the only one hinging on two Puna precincts.
The Hawaii Island County Council District 4 seat that covers the Puna area is up for grabs and the tallies right now are also too close to call.
The winner for the state House seat that covers Puna is also in question. Incumbent Rep. Faye Hanohano is trailing Joy San Buenaventura, but with thousands of voters yet to cast their ballots, the race is not over.
A glitch had caused problems with two voting machines, but new machines were brought in and no votes were lost.
The Office of Elections says the results should be in as soon after the polls close at 6 p.m., but any registered voter in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote. It’s estimated the results will be announced sometime around 7:30 p.m.