Election Day help needed at polls
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer
State elections officials said the situation for Tuesday's general election is not as critical as it was in the primary election, when Hawai'i National Guard troops stepped in to fill vacant poll worker slots, but some specific areas are still facing lean staffs.
Polling officials are selected on O'ahu by the state Office of Elections, and on the Neighbor Islands by the elections staffs of the county clerks.
O'ahu has shortages of poll workers in East Honolulu and the Kalihi areas, said Rex Quidilla, administrative assistant to state elections chief Dwayne Yoshino.
Want to be a poll worker during the General Election? Call your city or county clerk's office to volunteer. Honolulu: state Office of Elections, 453-8683 Maui: County Clerk's elections office, 270-7749 Kaua'i: County Clerk elections office, 241-6350 Hawai'i: County Clerk's elections office, 961-8277
Step up to work at the polls
Want to be a poll worker during the General Election? Call your city or county clerk's office to volunteer.
Honolulu: state Office of Elections, 453-8683
Maui: County Clerk's elections office, 270-7749
Kaua'i: County Clerk elections office, 241-6350
Hawai'i: County Clerk's elections office, 961-8277
Neighbor Islands also have specific areas in need.
"We're a little short in the Kihei area. That's probably the worst one for us," said Shirley Magarifuji, Maui County's elections administrator.
On the Big Island, West Hawai'i is short, although all precincts could face difficulty if scheduled poll workers fail to show up, said Hawai'i County Clerk Al Konishi.
Kaua'i County is fairly evenly staffed but not overstaffed, said County Clerk Peter Nakamura.
"We could use some backup," he said.
In past years, polling places with critical shortages of staff have occasionally prevailed on early voters to take on-the-job training and stay the entire day.
The poll worker's job is a tough one. The hours extend from before the 7 a.m. opening of the polls to after the 6 p.m. closing. Workers make just $75, and meals are not provided. Often, at a polling place someone will take up a collection and get takeout meals.
Elections folks are keeping track of people who volunteered as poll workers, because they'll be needed again for the special election Nov. 30 for the end of the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink's term.
"We're not as staffed up for the special election as we need to be," said Maui County Clerk Roy Hiraga.
In that election, state elections officials hope to reduce expenses by combining precinct polling places. Some elections experts suggest that might be a good idea in regular elections, too, particularly if the trend to increased absentee and early voting and low precinct turnout continues.
"On our island, we got less than 30 percent live gate, to use boxing match terminology," said Hawai'i County Clerk Konishi.
"We have to look at consolidation of precincts," as a way to save money and to more efficiently use the limited supply of polling place volunteers, he said.
The trend toward reduced precinct voting and more early voting and mail voting has grown ever since the state eased the rules to allow people to vote away from their precinct without having to give a reason. And in this election, all indications are that absentee voting will reach a new record.
Voting officials reported that walk-in voting has been steady, but it is too early to draw conclusions about whether it will be significantly different in volume compared to the primary. But there is a significant increase in the number of people requesting absentee ballots.
On O'ahu, effective Monday there have been 53,000 requests for mailed absentee ballots for the general election, compared with 32,835 absentee ballots actually mailed in during the primary. Statewide, there were almost 44,000 absentee mail ballots cast in the primary. Thus far, the total requested in the general is more than 73,000 almost a two-thirds increase.
Reach Jan TenBruggencate at email@example.com or (808) 245-3074.