Members of the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative should by now have received ballots in the mail to vote for a new board of directors for the island’s first-ever co-op electrical utility.
Now, it is up to members, that is electric subscribers on the island, to return those ballots to KIUC before the deadline of 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
Simply vote for no more than nine of the 31 people listed on the ballot, fold the ballot and put it into the envelope with all the writing on it, then inside the second envelope postage prepaid addressed to KIUC, then mail it or drop it off at KIUC headquarters in Kukui Grove Village West.
Members of the same company that conducted the state’s four elections over the past five months will conduct a fifth one, to determine the nine-member KIUC board.
According to a spokesperson for KIUC, ballot envelopes received at KIUC will be kept locked up until Monday, Feb. 10, when Election Systems & Services (ES&S, the election firm) begins the verification process.
Verification, explained Anne Barnes, KIUC’s communications coordinator, means that each envelope will be verified against the voter database to insure that only one ballot is submitted per member.
All envelopes will remain unopened until election day, Saturday, Feb. 15, when volunteers will come in to begin opening of envelopes and preparing them for ES&S computerized counting machines.
Like in government elections, trained observers will ensure the election process is flawless. Five observers with experience monitoring county elections will be assisting on election day, along with 13 volunteers, also from a county-approved list, who will be opening envelopes and preparing them for counting machines.
More volunteers may be needed, depending upon the number of return ballots received, Barnes said.
The post office box at Lihu’e Post Office was established in November specifically for the election.
KIUC staff yesterday began picking up envelopes at the post office, and daily through election day those ballots will be counted, date-stamped, and housed in a secure, locked storage room.
A running tally is being kept on the Lihu’e post office pickups and drop-offs at KIUC’s offices (open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturday, Feb. 15).
On election day, the deadline for ballots, the KIUC ballot box will be available until 4 p.m.
Members and account holders have already noticed their names and account addresses printed on the outer envelopes. This is just as it is done with mail-in absentee ballots in county elections.
For those concerned that the ballot might not necessarily remain secret, there is a process for opening the envelopes that separates and discards outer envelopes with account information, and shuffling the inner ballot envelopes.
A different team opens the ballot envelopes, a process modeled after county and state elections.
In a three-month, arduous process, employees of KIUC called nearly all electric customers on the island who have multiple accounts under one name, or several accounts under one or more company names, in order to ensure that each eligible voter gets only one ballot.
The result is that the County of Kauai, for example, which has numerous electric accounts at locations from Ha’ena to Kekaha, gets only one ballot (probably designated to Mayor Bryan Baptiste or his chosen representative), and large hotels, property-management firms and other entities received only one ballot, Barnes said.
The “scrubbed” list of eligible voters in the KIUC board election pared the list of total KIUC customers from over 30,000 to just over 22,000, she said.
“On January 15th we created the final scrubbed database,” she explained. “In November, we began a query of customers, asking if they had more than one account.
“Through the next months we called customers in order to create a solid, one-customer, one-vote database, based on the customer of record,” Barnes continued.
Ballots sent via return-mail in the postage-paid official envelopes must be received at the KIUC post-office box in Lihu’e by Saturday, Feb. 15, or they will not be counted.
There is no procedure in place to let people know their ballots were received late and hence not counted, she said.
“We can’t control the U.S. Postal Service, so we are just giving the deadline. If anyone is nervous about the time, we suggest strongly they drop them off at the locked ballot box in our offices between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (weekdays),” she said.
The first annual election meeting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, in the parking lot of KIUC headquarters. Since some of the nine people elected to the board will serve one-year terms, there will be board elections every year.
Gregg Gardiner, current board chair, will call the meeting to order, and Alton Miyamoto, KIUC president, will offer a few welcoming remarks. Board candidates present will be recognized.
Barnes said election results should be known a few hours after the polls close.
Finally, an earlier article contained erroneous information about the amount of annual revenues KIUC officers set aside on an annual basis to give back to the community in grants.
The amount available for community groups is just over $9,200 based on 2002 annual revenues of around $92.7 million, or 1 percent of 1 percent of annual revenues, not the 1 percent of annual revenues figure reported earlier.
Grant amounts and recipients are determined by an employee committee.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 224).