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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Primary Election

Error at polling
places slowed
election tally

Workers forget to turn in
computer cards, but the vote
isn't compromised


By Christine Donnelly

Officials at two Oahu polling places forgot to turn in computer cards counting votes at their precincts Saturday night, mistakes that slowed the final tally but never threatened the integrity of the election, a spokesman said.

Workers at all 214 precincts on Oahu had checklists on how to close their precincts, including gathering and delivering all the voting material to election headquarters at the state Capitol.

But workers at the Pearl Harbor Elementary School and Waikele Community Park precincts somehow skipped the step that included retrieving a credit card-sized vote counter from the balloting machine and returning it to headquarters to be downloaded into the central computers tallying all votes, said Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for the state Office of Elections.

Headquarters noticed the two cards were missing about 10 p.m. Saturday, and by about 11:30 p.m. election workers and several observers headed out to the two precincts to retrieve the cards, he said. "Part of the reason it took so long was finding the people who had the keys, he said.

"The (polling places) were locked up."

Quidilla stressed that the "fail-safe" seals on the computer cards were unbroken, indicating they had not been tampered with.

Also, he said, the precinct captains had turned in the poll books as well as the original ballots, which in the worst case scenario could have been counted by hand.

"The integrity and accuracy of the election was never threatened. It just slowed us down," Quidilla said.

The mistakes occurred apparently because the "precinct captains were tired, they'd worked a long day and they simply forgot."

State elections officials had been hoping to have a final Oahu tally by 11:30 p.m. Saturday, rather than the actual finish of 6 a.m. Sunday.

But Quidilla said the missing computer cards were just one reason for the delay, also blaming a last-minute influx of absentee ballots and the need for an on-the-spot audit of an especially close House race on the North Shore.

Still, election officials had 99.1 percent of all precincts counted before midnight, he said.

"Basically, everything but those two (precincts) and the remaining absentee ballots."

Quidilla said that all procedures would be reviewed with precinct captains to make sure similar problems do not occur on Election Day.

"We had 214 precincts on the island and everybody got it right, but those two," he said.

"I don't want to get on their case, but yes, we will be going over exactly what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."

State Office of Elections

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