State Office of Elections officials said Monday that a post-election audit showed that a memory card containing the results of 800 mail-in ballots on Maui was inadvertently not fed into the state Office of Elections system.
The mistake meant the mail-in votes were not counted or included with ballot totals released Aug. 9 during primary election night.
"This was simply a matter of inadvertently (not) adding in a card," said Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla via phone from Oahu on Monday morning.
He added that the matter was not a systematic problem but an "inadvertent error."
The Maui ballot votes were included in results released Friday night that also reported storm-delayed votes tallied from the Puna region on the Big Island. There, a makeup election was held after voters from two Puna precincts were unable to vote Aug. 9 because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle. The 800 votes from Maui County tweaked numbers in county and statewide races but did not change overall primary election results. News of the 800 ballots not being included in primary election results surfaced Friday night.
State Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said the issue was discovered Wednesday when he was on Maui conducting post-election audits, a normal process after every election.
"It was discovered we were 800 off in our reconciliation," Nago told The Maui News on Monday.
The matter was resolved quickly when officials found that a memory card containing the results was not fed into a machine, Nago added.
The card was sealed and secured until the seal was cut Wednesday night in front of elections observers, Nago added.
Workers "kind of knew about the card (on election night) but lost track of it," he said.
Quidilla pointed out that the discovery of the problem showed the strength of the elections system process, not its weakness.
"We see this as the system working. . . . This is the strength of the system rather than a failure," he said.
Quidilla and Nago said that many times during post-election audits, votes are added to the tallies released earlier and the same is done in election totals across the nation.
But they did say 800 is a higher-than-normal number of votes added after a typical election.
They said the number of votes added to election tallies after post-election audits varies each election.
Quidilla commended the Maui County Clerk's Office, which - among its other duties - handles election matters in the county, saying they do "excellent work."
"They do not have a track record of not recognizing these things. The county is well-served by the Elections Division there," he said.
In a Maui News analysis of the results, the addition of 800 mail-in votes changed ballot totals, in varying degrees, in all 34 Maui County precincts.
The breakdown of the additional votes in Maui's six House districts was:
* 195 additional votes, 24.4 percent of the 800, in seven precincts of the 8th House District (Wailuku, Waihee, Waiehu, Waikapu, Kahakuloa and Puuohala).
* 178 votes, 22.3 percent, in six precincts of the 12th House District (Pukalani, Makawao, Kula, Keokea, Ulupalakua, Spreckelsville and a portion of Kahului).
* 143 votes, 17.9 percent, in four precincts of the 9th House District (Kahului, Puunene, Old Sand Hills and Maui Lani).
* 116 votes, 14.5 percent, in eight precincts of the 13th House District (Haiku, Paia, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Molokai and Lanai).
* 89 votes, 11.1 percent, in four precincts of the 11th House District (Kihei, Wailea and Makena).
* 79 votes, 9.9 percent, in five precincts of the 10th House District (West Maui, Maalaea and north Kihei).
(The percentages don't add up to 100 because of rounding.)
The precincts with the most votes added were: Kula Community Center with 67 additional votes, Iao Intermediate School in Wailuku with 61 more votes and the Haiku Community Center with 50 additional votes.
The precincts with the least votes added were: the Kaunoa Senior Citizen Center in Spreckelsville with two votes, Maunaloa Community Center on Molokai with three votes, and the Kenolio Recreational Complex in north Kihei with seven more votes.
The 800 additional votes increased Maui County's voter turnout to 33.1 percent, with 28,337 voting out of 85,581 registered voters. Maui remained the county with the lowest turnout, behind Kauai County with 47 percent, the City and County of Honolulu with 43.4 percent and Hawaii County with 37.5 percent. The statewide voter turnout was 41.5 percent.
The new ballots did not change any results and only fractionally changed percentages in tight races.
For example, former Maui County Council Member Mike Molina gained a 10th of a percentage point from Henry Kahula Jr. in the Makawao-Haiku-Paia council residency race. Molina remained on top of the four-candidate primary race with 11,467 votes, or 40.5 percent; followed by Council Member Mike White with 10,110, or 35.7 percent (unchanged); Kahula with 2,142 votes, or 7.6 percent; and Alex Haller with 839 votes, or 3 percent.
Molina and White advance to face each other in the Nov. 4 general election.
In the Democratic primary for the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's seat, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa improved slightly among Maui County voters, extending her county lead over U.S. Brian Schatz to 222 votes, compared with her 155-vote lead before the 800 new votes were counted.
The final tally for all Maui County votes in the U.S. Senate race showed Hanabusa taking 11,388 votes, or 48.5 percent, to Schatz's 11,166 ballots, or 47.5 percent, and Brian Evans' 476 votes, or 2 percent.
Statewide, after storm-delayed votes from the Big Island's Puna District were counted Friday, Schatz came out on top with 115,401 ballots, or 48.5 percent, while Hanabusa took 113,632, or 47.8 percent, and Evans had 4,842, or 2 percent.