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An apparent attempt to rig Hawaii’s election was thwarted last week when a machine at the state’s Hilo counting center rejected 11 ballots with the same barcode, indicating they were likely photocopied.
The state elections agency is reviewing ballots and investigating how the election-day incident came about, Nedielyn Bueno, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said Monday.
“The vote counting system rejects duplicate ballots to prevent a ballot from being accidentally scanned more than once by an operator or having multiple copies of the same ballot,” Bueno said. “There was one instance where duplicate ballots were flagged by the ballot counting system at the Hilo tallying center and the ballots were removed from the stack and secured.”
It is not yet known how the ballot papers, which apparently had no envelopes, got to the counting center. The Hilo Center is the only counting center on the island and processes all ballots on the island.
“At this point, we understand that the system worked as intended to prevent duplicate ballots from being scanned,” Bueno said.
State law permits no less than one official observer appointed by each political party and no less than one official news media observer, as well as observers appointed by the state chief election officer and the county clerk, space permitting.
Volunteer observers spent many hours on election day, November 8, with some not leaving until Wednesday morning.
One of them was Tiffany Edwards Hunt, a media monitor for the Big Island Press Club. Edwards Hunt said she stood by a long table and watched workers remove ballots from envelopes that had been cut open by a machine.
“They take the ballots out of the envelopes and stack them, and it’s a very, very rigorous process,” she said. “They are organized into stacks by district and then placed in a box and transported to the computers with an escort (across the room) and then placed in the computer.”
Edwards Hunt said one of the representatives from Hart InterCivic, the equipment provider, rushed to the table and alerted the acting county Elections Administrator that there had been a problem with one of the machines and explained to the group in detail what had happened. Not only did the duplicate ballots have the same barcode, they were on different paper than the authentic ballots, Edwards Hunt said.
“It really baffled me how the ballots even got into the room. … I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what they came in and how they got to the machines,” said Edwards Hunt. “But basically I felt comforted that the machines caught the ballots.”
(Disclosure: Nancy Cook Lauer is on the board of directors of the Big Island Press Club, as is Edwards Hunt.)
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at [email protected]