Tuesday, February 2, 1999

Senate panel
might review results of ’98 elections

The firm that supplied the
ballot machines has offered to pay
the cost of recounting the votes

Legislature Directory
By Gregg K. Kakesako


The state Senate is studying the possibility of forming a special committee to review the 1998 election results, and the mainland company that was hired to tabulate the ballots is willing to pay for a recount.

However, Dwayne Yoshina, chief elections officer, today said he doesn't know if he has the power to authorize a recount.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature "The law is silent," Yoshina told the Star-Bulletin.

Except when ordered by the state Supreme Court, the recount provision was removed in 1972.

Tom Eschberger, vice president of Election Systems and Software, the Omaha-based company hired to electronically tabulate ballots, told the Star-Bulletin his company is willing to pay for a recount.

"The problem was limited to only seven precincts out of 350 where seven machines malfunctioned, but the results would not overturn any races," he said.

Eschberger said he believes a recount would verify the results of all the races.

"We went through a statistical analysis of all the precincts to see if there was anything that could raise a red flag... We're confident that in 343 precincts we were dead on."

As far as Eschberger is concerned, only seven machines malfunctioned in November.

Yoshina said he has asked the company to determine what happened on election night and he doesn't know long that process will take.

The control image sensor was out on one of the seven machines that malfunctioned, Yoshina said.

The lens on another reader was smudged and there were several machines where food stains may have been responsible for faulty readings.

Senate President Norman Mizuguchi today said he was still trying to confirm that the ballot-counting machines may have malfunctioned.

"My responsibility at this point," Mizuguchi said, "is to pool all the information together ... I haven't finalized anything as yet."

He acknowledged that a formation of a four-member investigative committee is a possibility.

Meanwhile, the five-member elections appointment commission has scheduled a Feb. 18 meeting to determine whether Yoshina will continue as chief election officer. Yoshina's appointment expired on Sunday. He is being held over temporarily.

Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, Gov. Ben Cayetano's spokeswoman, said today the decision of what happens next is Yoshina's.

Overvotes -- more than one vote in the same race being cast on one ballot -- in one Waianae district prompted a recount in one House race, and that recount caused the problem with the machines to be uncovered.

Asked if he still was confident in the new system, Yoshina said that on election night his staff manually counted the ballots in 50 of the state's precincts.

"It was a random count of different contests and candidates and those came right on target," Yoshina said. "If you go statistically with that, I am comfortable with the outcome."

Senate Judiciary Committee co-chair Matt Matsunaga has said he is willing to review Hawaii's election laws, but is concerned what a recount would cost.

The state's new ballot tabulating system also encountered problems in the September primary where there were sharp increases in the number of spoiled ballots, compared with the 1996 primary where a punch card system was used. Problems also arose because the wrong types of pens were used to mark ballots.

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