Repeat of election problems possible
The state says it has resolved glitches from the primary
Election experts say the problems that Hawaii experienced during the Sept. 23 primary, with precinct workers not showing up and difficulties with new technology, are occurring all over the country, and some experts are predicting more of the same next Tuesday.
However, Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said he is optimistic the problems will not be repeated next week, even though the state is still looking for more poll workers.
Want to work on Election Day?
The hours are long -- 5:30 a.m. until about 7 p.m.
The pay ranges from $85 for most precinct workers to $175 for large precinct chairs.
But most people who work on Election Day don't do it for the money. It's about helping your community, said Doreen Tanaka, who helps train election workers.
"It's a really nice time to get to know who your friends and neighbors are," she said.
To sign up, call the Office of Elections at 453-VOTE (8683).
There is one last training class scheduled before next week's elections. It will be held tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. at the state Capitol Auditorium.
Judy Gold, the precinct operations coordinator for the state Office of Elections, said hundreds of people signed up after stories appeared last week about the state being short 400 workers. But she said workers are still needed at scattered precincts on Oahu -- notably at Holy Trinity Church, Aina Haina Elementary School and Kahala Elementary School.
"This (recruiting election workers) is always a challenge, not just for the state of Hawaii, but nationally," Quidilla said. "It's been an incredibly difficult task."
In the primary, six polling places opened late because precinct chairs didn't show up, and election results were delayed because of difficulties confirming polling sites had closed, and combining results from two different election systems and companies -- the direct recording devices from Hart Intercivic and the optical-scan paper ballots from Election Systems and Software.
R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, a nonprofit group that provides training for elections officials, said Hawaii's experience in the primary is not surprising.
Finding enough poll workers is a chronic problem across the country, especially in cities, Lewis said.
Quidilla emphasized that the state has filled all the precinct chairperson positions, which should mean all voting places will be able to open on time.
He acknowledged that going into the primary, the Office of Elections thought it had enough workers, then found itself short when people didn't show up.
About 3,500 poll workers are needed statewide to run the election, 2,600 on Oahu, Gold said.
Since the Sept. 23 primary, the state has been trying to call all of the poll workers who have signed up to make sure they will show up on Tuesday.
Doug Chapin, director of electionline.org, a nonpartisan group that monitors election reform efforts, said the Help America Vote Act of 2002 has made elections more complicated, increasing the potential for problems.
"Whenever you are putting new people in new places with new machines, there's always the possibility something won't go right," Chapin said. "I'd be very surprised if we didn't see more of it in November."
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The state Office of Elections held a training class for voting precinct volunteers Wednesday at Kalani High School. Volunteers listened as trainer Doreen Tanaka gave instruction.
The state has used the Election Systems and Software paper ballot machines since 1998, and the Hart InterCivic eSlate electronic machines since 2004.
But this was the first year printers were added to the eSlate machines, and the first year Hart InterCivic was charged with compiling the results.
Neil McClure, a vice president at Hart InterCivic, said the problems that delayed results during the primary had nothing to do with the machines or the new printers.
He said the primary election results required information on voter turnout by political party, which his company had not done in other elections.
"We needed to verify the results," McClure said.
In the general election, those statistics will not be part of the result. In addition, McClure said Hart InterCivic has been working with the state and Election Systems and Software to make sure election results will be timely on Tuesday.
"Voting is an intensely human process. Tens of millions of voters meet tens of thousands of poll workers. There's going to be opportunities for problems to arise," Chapin said.
To make sure Hawaii's election workers know what to do, the state runs training classes, which are mandatory for all election workers. Precinct chairs must attend an additional class where they get hands-on training on opening and closing polling places.
About two dozen people were at a training class at Kalani High School last week for precinct officials.
Despite a few technical problems with a slide show, trainer Doreen Tanaka went through the procedures in the 140-page election manual in less than 90 minutes, followed by an open-book quiz.
The procedures are not overly complicated, but they are detailed and come with a checklist for each person's role during Election Day.
Tanaka emphasized that it is important that elections workers have a good attitude on Election Day, so that voters will want to return.
"If you don't have a positive experience, it will show," she said. "And you may not want to come back in two years. And we want you to come back."