Election officials address long lines, problems at the polls

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During Tuesday’s general election, voters told us about long lines at Oahu polling sites.

Some of those lines wrapped around buildings well after the polls stopped accepting more voters at 6 p.m.

Some chose to fill out their ballots while standing in the line to get their ballot scanned. Many precincts had only one e-scan machine for ballots and one electronic voting station.

We wanted to find out more about what caused the long lines, and if anything can be done differently to help things run smoother.

Chief election officer Scott Nago says the length of the ballot may have added extra wait time. The 20 county charter amendment questions on Oahu made the ballot two separate pages that both had be submitted into one e-scan.

We asked, why weren’t the polling places better prepared, say, with more than one e-scan machine?

“No, we didn’t know until I want to say 60 days before the general election when the questions were due, so there was no guarantee that there would be two e-scans,” Nago said. “Also, this is a long-term contract, so it’s the contract that we had for years and years, so it’s not as simple as buying machines off of a shelf.”

Nago says two months is not enough time to get more e-scan machines.

“It takes years to procure something as big as a voting system,” he said.

With so many amendment questions, we asked Honolulu Charter Commission chair David Rae if the commission would consider placing a cap on the number of questions that appear on the ballot.

“This is the formation of democracy and the backbone of the city is the charter. It is not, you know, something that is up for, ‘Well, it’s too long or too short’ or it’s whatever. It’s what the right amount of material is to go in front of the voters,” Rae replied.

In terms of finding a solution, the Hawaii Elections Commission says all mail-in voting may be the answer.

“It gets rid of all the machines that have problems,” said chair Scotty Anderson. “It get rids of a lot of problems, but it saves so much money. It’s much more efficient and we wouldn’t be waiting all night for the ballots.”

Anderson says all mail-in ballots would save the state about $800,000 each election cycle.

“This year, we’re going to really be out in force to make this change,” he added. “We think it’s the best way to go into the future.”

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