Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Election Day help needed at polls

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

Certain polling places across the state will be short-staffed on Election Day unless volunteers step forward for a day with long hours and low pay.

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.

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

"We're also filling pukas here and there," Quidilla said. "We're worried about the inevitable last-minute dropouts. About 10 percent of the people who sign on to work at polling stations don't show up. We're getting calls every day from people who can't make it."

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 jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.