Scott Nago, chief elections officers, reports on ballot shortages

The State Elections Commission met Nov. 27 to hear official reports and community testimony regarding the 2012 elections.

When giving his report, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago maintained that the ballot shortages were due to simply miscalculating the number of ballots needed, as well as trouble distributing reserve ballots quickly on election day.

“Our responses should have better. . . . We should have been able to cope with [ballot shortages] much better than we did,” Nago said.

But former commission member Warner Kimo Sutton characterized the problems as “so unorganized it’s hard to believe it wasn’t planned.”

“The Office [of Elections] has one basic responsibility: to run an efficient, honest, productive election every two years. That’s it,” said Sen. Sam Slom in his testimony.

“I’m here as a voter [and as] a representative of dozens of constituents who asked me to express their outrage,” he said.

Multiple testimonies questioned if the ballot problems might have changed outcomes.

“This horrendous general represents an intent to change . . . results through a lack of ballots,” said Sutton.

Community member Carroll Cox agreed. “I believe there was a criminal intent here,” he said.

Cox called for not only the termination of Nago, but the “cleansing of that entire office.”

After hearing allegations of criminal activity, commission member Xara Mashall commented that “those kinds of questions are going to arise when you have 51 precincts in one area run low on ballots.”

“When you don’t print enough ballots . . . that amounts to voter suppression,” said civil rights activist Marsha Joyner in her testimony.

Janet Mason of the League of Women Voters Hawaii commented more broadly on the election. “Like many people, we were very distressed about the ballot shortage problems. But we’ve taken a deep breath, and we’re trying to move on with some constructive suggestions,” she said. She recommended an absentee-ballot tracking system, secure online voter registration and better education for poll workers as methods for increasing turnout and ensuring fair elections.

Several commission members questioned why the office doesn’t simply print a ballot for each registered voter.

“You have 100 voters, you get 100 ballots. You have 500 voters, you get 500 ballots,” said member Danny Young. “I don’t see the problem.”

In an executive session following the public meeting, the commissioners created a subcommittee to investigate the ballot shortages experienced on Oahu during the general election.

The subcommittee will report the results of its investigation at the next meeting of the commission, scheduled for the week of Jan. 7.