Attorney Collins: Certificate of election for Wailuku seat pending amid complaint
Only eight of the nine council members will be participating in today’s council inauguration, according to news release issued by attorney Lance Collins on Sunday. He said it’s because a certificate of election had not been issued for the Wailuku, Waiheʻe, Waikapū residency area seat.
The release was shared by candidate Noelani Ahia who joined 30 voters in filing a complaint with the Hawai’i Supreme Court in November, seeking to void the results of the race, and hold a new election.
On election day, the County Clerk deemed the return envelopes of more than 800 mail in ballots deficient. The complaint alleges mishandling of the deficient ballots. “The Clerk did not give uniform notice to voters regarding the deficiency determination and how to cure, hundreds of voters were not given written mailed notice until the day of the deadline to fix the alleged issue,” according to the release.
According to the final election report released by the Office of Elections on Nov. 22, 2022, incumbent Alice Lee had 22,733 votes compared to Ahia’s 22,220 votes, representing a 513 vote difference. That’s nine votes more in favor of Lee following the previously released summary report.
The Hawai’i Supreme Court has not rendered a decision on the contest, according to Collins. According to his release, the Council has 30 days from Jan. 2 to fill the interim vacancy until the election contest is resolved and either a new election is called or a certificate of election can be delivered after the period of appeal ends. Otherwise, it states, the mayor is given the power to appoint an interim council member.
Collins also cites state law (HRS 11-156), saying the County Clerk cannot deliver a certificate of election until an election contest is resolved and the period for appeal has ended.
“The election contest has raised two federal questions meaning that the period for appeal to the US Supreme Court is 90 days… The earliest possible time for the seating of the Wailuku, Waiheʻe, Waikapū seat under all scenarios will be 90 days after the decision of the Hawai’i Supreme Court,” according to the release.
Collins called for transparency saying, “It is of paramount importance that procedures are implemented in a fair and uniform manner, to protect the integrity of the election system and our democratic form of government.”