Still Needed at the Wheel: Steady Hands in Atlanta, on Big Island


[Image courtesy of BooksAndBoys]

A day after the euphoria of National Voter Registration Day, two communities are facing trouble at the top as Election Day 2012 rapidly comes into view.

In Fulton County (Atlanta) GA, the county has been forced to appoint an acting election director after the incumbent was jailed for a probation violation following a 2009 DUI arrest.

In Hawaii County, Hawaii, county clerk Jamae Kawauchi has appointed yet another election professional to serve as temporary director following a series of concerns about her office’s readiness for the 2012 election. Kawauchi has been under fire for missing meetings with the Aloha State’s other clerks. She fired the county’s election director earlier this year after alleged violations of the county’s alcohol policy and concerns about private business operations on county property (she has been reinstated but is not on the job and suing her for defamation) and a replacement is on “stress leave” after working long overtime hours before the August primary.

What’s interesting is the reaction of the two communities to the most recent news. In Atlanta, the general sense is relief and hope that the county office can get back on track:

Fulton drew heat in the Obama-McCain election four years ago, when the office’s absentee ballot processing went so slow that the county had to hire FedEx to ship nearly 4,000 ballots to voters overnight, costing more than $300,000.

Then, after closing the polls, workers spent 53 hours in a warehouse counting absentee and provisional ballots. At the time, the results of a U.S. Senate race hung in the balance.

Several officials who have voiced doubts about the county’s ability to run the polls accurately expressed relief at [the incumbent’s] departure [after] bungling the redistricting process and putting hundreds of voters to the wrong state House and Senate races in the July primary …

“I think the county’s better off without him,” County Commissioner Tom Lowe said. “I’m just trusting the fact that we’ve got a board there that knows what had to be done, and they’ll get it together and do it right.”

On the Big Island, there has not yet been any reaction to the new administrator’s appointment – and it will be interesting to see that reaction given the vote of confidence she received from the clerk, whose stock is dangerously low.

The run-up to Election Day is never easy – and in Fulton County on the Big Island, voters will be forgiven if they’re even uneasier than usual. Keep an eye on those two communities in the next few weeks to see if changes at the top make any difference at the polls this November.

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