GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
A vote was thrust into a manila envelope last night as voters thronged to cast their ballots at Jefferson Elementary School.
Chaos rules at caucuses
A huge turnout overwhelmed many caucus locations around Hawaii last night as officials scrambled to provide more ballots, party registrations and attendance sheets.
Annelle Amaral, the Oahu Democratic Party chairwoman, said crowds proved too large for volunteers at Kawananakoa Intermediate School, Wilson Elementary School, Niu Valley Intermediate School, Manoa Elementary School and other locations.
Because of a lack of parking, people were double-parked at Kawananakoa, where several state House districts were crowded into one location. Police began towing double-parked cars, Amaral said.
"This has blown everyone away," she said.
One voter complained that he and his wife turned back from Kawananakoa without voting after witnessing police ticket illegally parked cars.
Amaral said was she afraid new people to the party would be turned off by their experiences with the caucuses. "We're doing all sorts of things to make sure that doesn't happen," she said.
Officials scrambled to replenish supplies and improvise ballots to make sure people could vote, Amaral said.
Most locations reported lines out the door when the caucuses opened.
At Kahuluu Elementary School, voter Tom Robertson, 52, of Heeia said he saw some would-be voters leave because the wait to vote was too long. When one precinct at Kahuluu ran out of ballots, volunteers gave out scraps of paper for voters to write in their choice. Robertson said he could have voted multiple times because of the lack of organization.
At Kihei Elementary School, an estimated 200 people left without voting because there was no room in the cafeteria, said Maui Democratic official Lance Holter.
At Manoa Elementary School, an estimated 1,500 people showed up, overwhelming precinct leaders who weren't prepared for the large turnout and forcing them to abandon procedures to accommodate everyone.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
People waited in lines on the playground to register for the balloting last night during the Democratic caucus for District 24 in the Manoa Elementary School cafeteria.
There were so many people that not everyone could fit in the cafeteria and people had to wait outside on the basketball court, said Rep. Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa).
At first party officials tried to get people to vote in shifts.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who was at Manoa Elementary and is a staunch supporter of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, suggested that people cast their votes in the chaotic cafeteria using the honor system. Instead of ensuring everyone was a registered Democrat prior to voting, precinct volunteers allowed voters to write the candidate's name on a scrap piece of paper and register afterward.
Asked whether there would be doubts of the honor system's accuracy, Abercrombie said only those not at the school wouldn't understand. "Everyone came in to vote because they wanted to," he said. "Hundreds of people stood outside in the pitch black for 45 minutes. They couldn't see anything and couldn't register. What we did was to say no one would be turned away because of the logistics of voting."
Barbara Tanabe, precinct captain at Manoa Elementary School, said it would have been impossible to allow everyone who turned up to vote if they had required voters to first sign in.
Tom Davidson, a 51-year-old Manoa resident, said changing it to an honor system was practical but that he had some doubt about its accuracy. "It's not foolproof, but they were tracking it as best as they could," said Davidson, who said he voted for Obama.
But caucusing at some locations went smoother.
Party officials had concerns about Farrington High School, because the caucus was being held in the library at the same time that the state girl's basketball championships were being played in the gym.
Parking was a problem and officials said some people were discouraged and drove away. But several hundred people did show up and stayed to vote.
"It was mass chaos, but everything went smoothly," said Kevin Velasco, the new District 29 party chairman.
May Villacruzes, 82, was the first in line at 4 p.m., two hours before the caucus opened. "I want to get in and out," she said.
Star-Bulletin reporters Laurie Au and Gary T. Kubota contributed to this report.