Ballots pouring in: Count already underway as Election Day nears

  • NANCY COOK LAUER/West Hawaii Today Daniel Olsen feeds envelopes into the ballot sorting machine Tuesday in Hilo.

  • NANCY COOK LAUER/West Hawaii Today Hawaii County’s new $225,000 ballot sorting machine, shown Tuesday in the basement of the county building in Hilo, slits the envelopes, sorts the ballots and verifies signatures.

  • NANCY COOK LAUER/West Hawaii Today Elections Administrator Pat Nakamoto packs ballot envelopes Tuesday in the basement of the county building after they were sorted by the county’s new machine.

Deep in the basement of the county building in Hilo, a mammoth machine whizzes through up to 18,000 ballot envelopes an hour, slices them open, time- and date-stamps them, checks the thickness to ensure they contain ballots, verifies signatures and sorts them by precinct.