Tuesday, March 9, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Hand count of
close races begins

By Craig Gima


The state Office of Elections today was set to begin the next phase of an unprecedented review -- recounting by hand close races in the 1998 general election.

Also today, the oversight committee, which is supposed to report back to the Legislature by the end of the month, will begin comparing the numbers from the general election on Kauai with the recount.

The results of the recount and the general election are being analyzed by auditors hired from the Arthur Andersen firm. The comparisons are broken down by precinct, district, county and statewide and will be compiled over the next few days for the oversight committee to review.

The committee can order additional hand counts depending on what the comparisons show.

"If we see variances, then we're going to want to understand those variances," said oversight committee member R. Doug Lewis of the nonprofit Election Center.

The races to be recounted by hand include:

bullet The Big Island irradiation initiative.

bullet The Windward Oahu Senate race won by Bob Nakata over Joe Pickard.

bullet The Alewa Heights-Nuuanu House race won by Lei Ahu Isa over Corinne Ching.

bullet The North Kona-South Kohala House race won by Jim Rath over David Tarnas.

bullet The Kauai County Council race, where Billy Swain edged Mel Rapozo for the final spot on the seven-member Council.

A sixth contest where the difference between the candidates was less than 1 percent -- the race between Merwyn Jones and Emily Auwae for a Waianae House seat -- had already been recounted by hand.

A challenge to the results by Jones and the Democratic Party led to the discovery that ballots were miscounted by machines in seven precincts. The discovery, in turn, led to this week's recount of the entire election.

The machine count of the election was to have been completed last night.

Chief election officer Dwayne Yoshina said the results he has seen so far have been unremarkable. He said he has not seen great differences between the vote count in general election and the recount.

The ballots were counted twice by machines using different technologies. The ballots were counted by five high-speed counters using a "visual light" method of reading the ballots and then counted again using five high-speed infrared counters.

"The accuracy of the equipment is what we expected it to be," said Tom Urosevich, a vice president at Election Systems & Software, the company that provided the machines to the state for both the primary and general election.

ES&S is paying for the estimated $250,000 cost of the recount.


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