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Lawmakers against axing paper ballot audits

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Council members recently approved a resolution opposing two bills that propose to eliminate paper ballot audit requirements in Hawai‘i elections.

Hawai‘i Revised Statute 16-42 currently calls for a hand-counted audit of at least 10 percent of the ballots in each precinct to ensure that electronic vote-counting machines are accurately totaling ballots. House Bill 132 and Senate Bill 180 would remove the hand-counted requirement, allowing the chief election officer to rely on electronic tallies to complete the post-election audit.

Resolution 2023-21, introduced by council Chair Mel Rapozo, alleges that removing the use of hand tallies to audit votes “eliminates an effective audit procedure, which ensured the accuracy of Hawai‘i elections.”

Rapozo called the resolution “one of the more important resolutions” he has ever introduced. Alluding to the unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2022 election, Rapozo clarified that he didn’t believe there had been any manipulation of voting machines or ballots in Hawai‘i.

“But I cannot defend it,” he said. “if don’t have that audit. If we don’t have that paper copy, I can’t defend it.”

Council members voted unanimously in support of the resolution. Council member Felicia Cowden said she had faith in the elections committee and believed in their good intentions. “(But) it shouldn’t be about faith. It should be about accuracy and transparency,” she said.

Council member Addison Bulosan took note of the high turnout of people in attendance to support the resolution, with Kaua‘i residents filling nearly every seat in council chambers for the Feb. 16 meeting.

“The fact that we have almost every seat filled here gets me super excited,” Bulosan said. “That means that (the) community is engaged and everything is not just being done on this side of the street.”

Tom Stanton, a member of the Kaua‘i Republican Party Executive Committee, was one of 12 people to provide testimony at the meeting.

Stanton was concerned that electronic voting machines “could sometimes malfunction.”

“I’ve not said anything nefarious is going on,” Stanton said. “But without those paper ballot audits, there’s simply no way to tell if those received results are accurate.”

James Rosa, a Kapa‘a firearms dealer, shared similar concerns.

“Electronics aren’t 100 percent. Forms, paper are 100 percent,” he said.

Levana Lomma, the founder of the far-right group For Our Rights, echoed the same beliefs.

“If our votes are to be counted by machines rather than by the hands of the people of Hawai‘i, we must be afforded the ability to ensure that count is accurate through a hand-counted audit,” said Lomma, adding that many residents have lost confidence in the current voting system.

HB 132, which was introduced by state House Speaker Scott Saiki (D-District 25) in January, proposes that an electronic audit will further ensure accuracy.

“Electronic voting systems were first used in Hawai‘i during the 1998 elections. The technology involved with such systems has continued to evolve to improve the administration and security of elections,” said state Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago in written testimony.

Nago added that the elections office is able to go back to individual ballots to do a physical review as necessary, and that during the 2022 election audit process, they found more errors were caused by humans than voting equipment.

According to Rapozo, people from the mainland are “shocked” by the removal of hand-tallied audits.

“It’s an embarrassment for our state to even think that people are that stupid,” said Rapozo, noting that HB 132 also asks for the removal of the requirement that audited ballots be “randomly selected.”

Rapozo challenged Kaua‘i residents to bring their concerns to Gov. Josh Green and other state representatives.

“If these two bills pass, it’s up to the people and us to make sure that every voter understands who screwed the people,” he said.

Resolution 2023-21 also notes claims of incorrect audit procedures in the 2022 general election, where election officials used scanned images of ballots instead of the original paper ballots to tally votes, as required by HRS 16-42.

The Hawai‘i Republican Party took that issue to court, filing a complaint against the state of Hawai‘i Office of Elections and Nago on Nov. 28, 2022.

The GOP asked the court to issue a “declaratory judgment and injunctive relief that the Chief Election Officer of the State of Hawai‘i must follow the letter of the law as it relates to the testing and auditing of electronic voting machines used during elections.” O‘ahu Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang dismissed that case due to insufficient evidence.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached at 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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