The Hawaii primary is in a state of uncertainty, as Hurricane Iselle and a second storm barrel toward the islands and get-out-the-vote pushes are intermixed with information on where to find emergency assistance.
In preparation for their competitive Democratic Senate primary Saturday, Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa have been forced to alter their plans and help their constituents prepare for what could be damaging storms. Hurricane Iselle was projected to hit the Big Island late Thursday, in what would be Hawaii's first hurricane in 22 years.
"On the forecast track, the center of Iselle is expected to pass over the Big Island tonight, and pass just south of the smaller islands Friday," the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said Thursday.
While safety concerns remain the priority, the weather also makes projecting turnout a more harrowing task than normal in the Aloha State. Hawaii allows no-excuse absentee voting as well as early voting, meaning a significant percentage of the electorate may have already cast ballots.
KITV reported that nearly half of primary voters in 2012 voted through a method other than showing up at a polling precinct on Election Day.
As of Thursday afternoon, it was still all-systems-go for Saturday's primaries, said Justin Fujioka, a spokesman for Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The only alteration was early voting on the Big Island would now end earlier, at 1 p.m. Hawaii time on Thursday. Early voting was already scheduled to conclude on Thursday.
In the Senate race, instead of alerting volunteers and donors about opportunities to help get out the vote, Hanabusa sent an email on Wednesday night to announce the cancellation of sign-waving events and requesting supporters “take down their Hanabusa signs and banners” because of high winds.
“Our phone banks will continue as planned unless the situation worsens,” Hanabusa wrote.
Sen. Brian Schatz’s Twitter and Facebook feeds in recent days have featured a mix of campaign photos, storm updates and links to Red Cross shelter locations.
"With Hurricane Iselle approaching, our priority is everyone's safety. Make sure you are prepared in advance and please take in your yard signs and banners, which could become a hazard in high winds," Schatz's campaign said on Facebook. "For the best ways to prepare and for a list of emergency shelter locations on each island, visit the Hawaii State Civil Defense website ... Stay safe."
It's entirely possible that election operations could be adjusted due to the weather situation, with possibilities ranging from extended hours to an extension of time for absentee ballots to even a postponement and consolidation of polling places.
The primary contests require some 4,000 workers at 231 polling locations statewide, said Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for the state Office of Elections.
"We’ve never had to move an election, so we’re not sure how you would mobilize all this stuff or what other method would be available to us," Quidilla said.
West Hawaii Today reported that election officials in Hawaii County on the Big Island will have generators for each county polling place.
"My understanding is, if all 41 need generators, we will be able to get them there," said Pat Nakamoto, the county elections administrator.
According to state law, polls open Saturday at 7 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., Hawaii time. But in an emergency situation, Abercrombie, who also is facing a competitive Democratic primary challenge , can "adjust the hours for voting to take into consideration the working hours of the voters during the emergency period."
A second storm, Julio, is currently forecast to pass to the north of the Big Island on Sunday.
The forecast, from KITV, appears below:
Related stories: Hawaii Senator Gets Distance From Governor Who Appointed Him Rating Change: Hawaii Governor Senator Gets Outside Help for Final Days of Hawaii Primary (Video) Number of Potential Senators in the House Dwindles Rating Change: Hawaii Governor Schatz Defends East-West Center From Ted Cruz, Pigs Hawaii Senate Race Stokes Obama, Clinton Rift Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.