East Hawaii News

UPDATE: Hanabusa’s Special Election Delay Denied in Court

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UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: The election will go ahead as planned after Judge Greg Nakamura ruled against the request for an emergency temporary restraining order.

US Representative Colleen Hanabusa on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the state Office of Elections in an effort to delay the special election planned for Friday, Aug. 14 at Keonepoko Elementary School on Hawaiʻi Island.

Hanabusa claims that the voters of the area are still recovering from Tropical Cyclone Iselle should be granted more time to vote.

According to court documents, Hanabusa filed the case against the state’s chief election officer, Scott Nago.

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In the challenge, Hanabusa is seeking a temporary restraining order, with the case scheduled to be heard before Judge Greg Nakamura at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 14.

The votes play a key role in the US Senate race, where Senator Brian Schatz led Hanabusa by 1,635 votes during Saturday’s primary.

The vote count does not include walk-in voting at Hawaiian Paradise Community Center and Keoneopoko Elementary School, which were closed on election day due to Iselle.

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More than 8,000 voters are registered in the area where the special election is being held, enough to affect the outcome of the race.

The state senator for the district, Russel E. Ruderman, voiced his grievances with the state Office of Elections, chief elections officer Scott Nago, and the handling of the special election in Puna generally, in an open letter submitted to Big Island Now on Tuesday, Aug. 12.

“My question is, why was a decision so hastily made to designate Friday the 15th as the day for elections for the two affected areas, when so many residents along Red Road, in Pohoiki, and other areas of Puna are still trapped by fallen trees?” wrote Ruderman.

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“Not only is it is physically impossible for these voters to get to a polling station (and there is no plan to extend voting for hundreds of people in this situation), but the majority of these voters aren’t even aware that the decision has been made to reschedule the election in the first place.”

The polling sites will be consolidated to a single site at Keonepoko Elementary School in Pāhoa, with polling place hours to run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Voters in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

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