Big Island Makeup Election Challenged in Hawaiʻi Supreme Court
By Wendy Osher
A lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court today challenging the makeup election held on Friday, August 15, for two Hawaiʻi Island precincts that were closed on primary election day due to the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Iselle.
Under the lawsuit, unnamed residents of Pāhoa and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaiʻi Foundation, are asking the court to allow any registered voter affected by Iselle to cast a vote and to have that vote included in the August 2014 primary results.
The lawsuit also alleges that “the Legislature failed in its constitutional obligation to protect the fundamental right to vote by delegating all decisions relating to natural disasters to the Office of Elections.”
The challenge claims that hundreds and potentially thousands of voters were affected.
There were enough voters registered in the affected precincts to potentially impact the outcome of the democratic primary for the US Senate race; however, the ACLU notes that “the lawsuit does not challenge the results of any particular race, nor does it endorse any campaign.”
Key races remained unchanged after the make-up election with margin of victory widening for Senator Brian Schatz who held onto the democratic party nomination, with 1,769 votes more than Representative Colleen Hanabusa after the makeup election. That was up from the 1,635 vote lead Shatz had after the initial count following the primary election on Aug. 9.
Out of the total 8,255 registered voters at Hawaiian Paradise Community Center and Keonepoko Elementary School, 3,010 cast ballots in the election either by absentee mail or walk-in voting prior to the primary, or onsite during the make-up election six days later.
At the Hawaiian Paradise Community Center, there were 5,825 registered voters. Of that amount, 951 cast ballots on site, 291 cast votes during absentee walk-in voting, and 820 cast ballots by mail for a total vote count of 2,062. For the Keonepoko Elementary School precinct, there were 2,430 registered voters. Of that amount, 557 cast ballots on site, 64 participated in absentee walk-in voting prior to the primary, and 327 cast absentee mail-in ballots.
In a press release statement, ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck said, “Although the votes in question may not change the outcome of any of the various races, the ACLU filed this suit because the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy.”
He continued saying, “Every vote counts equally – this is about an individual exercising a fundamental right and not about the results of any single race. The government has a duty to respond to conditions on the ground to make sure people can vote. Here the government failed to do that, and changes are needed now to preserve the integrity of future elections.”