Maui Primary Election Lawsuit Among 3 Dismissed
By Wendy Osher
The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court dismissed three separate challenges to the primary election that was held across the state on Aug. 9, and the makeup election in Pāhoa on Aug. 15, 2014.
Attorney General David Louie commented on the ruling calling the decision, “the right result in all three challenges.”
Maui Mayoral Candidate’s Request for a Re-count Denied:
Here on Maui, Mayoral Candidate Nelson Waikiki Jr. filed a lawsuit against state Elections Chief Scott Nago, contesting the results of the election.
Waikiki, who garnered a total of 818 votes, or 2.9% of the vote, and failed to advance to the November general election, also sought an order compelling a re-count or re-vote. The final count was determined after the votes from the Pāhoa makeup election were added, and 800 unaccounted for ballots on Maui were recovered and accounted for.
Incumbent Mayor Alan Arakawa, who had 17,980 votes (63.5%), and candidate Tamara Paltin, who earned 3,405 votes (12%), finished the primary as the top two, and will face each other in the general election. In addition to Waikiki, other candidates including Alana Kay, Orion Kopelman and Beau Hawkes were all eliminated from contention. A seventh candidate appeared on the ballot, but his votes did not count due to disqualification.
The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court dismissed the complaint filed by Waikiki, concluding that the he, “can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief” because he failed to present any “actual information of mistakes or errors sufficient to change the results of the election.”
Earlier in the campaign, Waikiki‘s candidacy was challenged based on concerns raised about his residency, but that item was thrown out after the County Clerk ruled in his favor.
ACLU Complaint in Aftermath of Iselle Dismissed:
In a separate lawsuit, the most publicized complaint came from the American Civil Liberties Union and residents of Pāhoa in the case Lathers v. Abercrombie, seeking resolution to the makeup election on Hawaiʻi Island.
Under the lawsuit, residents joined the ACLU of Hawaiʻi Foundation in asking the court to allow any registered voter affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle to cast a vote and to have that vote included in the August 2014 primary results.
The lawsuit also alleged 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 Hawaiʻi Supreme Court concluded that it does not have the power or authority under the Hawaiʻi Constitution or by Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes to grant the relief sought and dismissed the complaint, according to information released by the State Attorney General.
The ACLU of Hawaiʻi issued a statement in response to the ruling saying the following:
“Every day, the ACLU works to defend and protect civil rights, including the right to vote. We believe that every person’s vote is important, and every person who wants to vote ought to have the same opportunity to do so. Many voters in and around Pāhoa did not have that opportunity, and we asked the Hawai‘i Supreme Court to step in. Although the Court declined to do so, we are grateful that the Court considered this matter so quickly. While our clients are disappointed that they will not be able to cast ballots in the primary election, the ACLU will continue its work to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to vote – even when a natural disaster strikes – and we look forward to working with the Legislature to prevent these kinds of situations in the future.”
Cermelj, et al v Nago Dismissed:
In Cermelj, et al v. Nago, et al, the plaintiffs also filed an Election Contest Complaint. The court dismissed the complaint concluding that plaintiffs could not bring an election contest because such challenges may only be brought by a candidate, political party or “thirty voters of any election district,” according to information released by the state Attorney General.
“These decisions bring closure and finality to our primary election. The candidates and Hawaiʻi’s voters can now look forward to the general election knowing that the results of the primary election are sound and not subject to any further challenge,” said Attorney General David Louie in an agency press release.