While candidates make their final push for votes and await the results of ballot counting, state elections officials are crossing their fingers that all goes smoothly during today's primary elections.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m. However, voters who are in line at 6 p.m. and haven't voted will be allowed to cast ballots, said Maui County Clerk Jeffrey Kuwada.
"They won't be chased away," he said.
Council Member Joe Pontanilla waves to motorists Friday afternoon along Kaahumanu Avenue. Pontanilla is accompanied by his wife, Charlotte.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
State Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran waves to motorists Friday afternoon along Kaahumanu Avenue. With the primary election today, Keith-Agaran and Pontanilla are vying for the 9th District House seat that encompasses Kahului and parts of Wailuku. The winner will take the seat because there is no Republican opposition.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Voters should bring identification, such as driver's licenses, with a photo of themselves. Other documentation, such as a current government-issued document with a voter's name and address, a utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck - all current - may be used in the absence of photo identification.
There are 84,042 Maui County voters registered to cast ballots today, slightly less than the 84,386 registered in the 2010 primary election, Maui County elections officials said Friday.
Today marks Hawaii's first-ever primary vote in August, a change that could catch some voters off guard if they haven't been paying attention to the scheduling of an earlier voting date.
Previously, state law called for primary elections to be held on the third Saturday in September, but lawmakers changed the state's primary election date to the second Saturday in August to give elections officials more time to mail general election ballots to uniformed and overseas voters.
Federal law requires at least 45 days, and the state law was enacted, effective January 2011, to conform to the federal statute.
And, there may be possible voter confusion from the changes of location for more than half a dozen precincts in Maui County. The changes move Maui voters from:
* Honolua Methodist Church to the Lahaina Civic Center.
* The Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku to the Baldwin High School cafeteria. (The community center is closed for renovations.)
* Kula Elementary School to the Kula Community Center.
* Haiku Elementary School cafeteria to the Haiku Community Center.
* Keanae Elementary School to Hana High and Elementary School.
* Waikapu Community Center to Pomaikai Elementary School cafeteria.
* Wailuku Elementary School cafeteria to Iao Intermediate School.
Maui County elections officials sent out letters to all affected voters to inform them of the change in polling locations, and the voters were provided with absentee ballot applications.
The state Office of Elections' website also has a "polling place locator." It can be found at elections2.hawaii.gov/ppl. Voters submit their residence address and the locator provides them with the location of their polling place.
Lastly, there's concern among voting officials statewide about the reported staffing turmoil in the Hawaii County elections office. Hawaii News Now reported this week that two of four full-time election staffers at the Big Island's elections office were out sick this week, and a temporary employee resigned Wednesday and called the office "dysfunctional."
However, Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi told the Honolulu TV station: "We're fine. We're doing OK."
Kuwada said that the Big Island elections office situation has the "potential to result in delays" statewide because elections officials do not release results until all polls are closed and all voters have cast their ballots.
"I hope everything goes well in all of the counties," he said.
Kuwada said that he understands that the Hawaii County clerk has trained replacements ready to step in for employees who won't be working today.
"We can only take her at her word," he said.
Kuwada said that Maui County is nearly fully staffed to handle the election today. He would not venture a guess at when the first election results would be announced.
"All kinds of unusual things occur on election day," he said. "We need to deal with them. Hopefully, the results will be released in a timely fashion."
To speed lines at polling places, Kuwada recommended that voters take the time to make their decisions on candidates before stepping into voting booths. Voters can find a sample of their ballots online on the state Office of Elections website.
Anyone with questions also may call Maui County elections officials at 270-7749.
The Maui News will post election results on its website at www.mauinews.com.
Also, Pacific Radio Group and the University of Hawaii Maui College will begin live election night coverage at 5:30 p.m. on cable Channel 55, with a simulcast on KNUI AM 900.
Candidates are scheduled for live interviews at the college's studios on the first floor of the Kaaike Building. The telecast will be hosted by KPOA Program Director Alakai Paleka, Fred Guzman and Pacific Radio Group News Director Wendy Osher.
And, at 6 p.m. today, Akaku: Maui Community Television will begin its live coverage of the primary election on cable Channels 52, 53 and 54 as well as streaming on www.akaku.org.
Kathy Collins and Jeff King will host Akaku's election night coverage, with analysis from Dick Mayer of the Kula Community Association and Mahina Martin, former Maui County community relations and communications director.
For more information, call Akaku at 871-5554.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.