Special Election for Puna District Held Today
A special election is being held today for voters in the Puna district who were unable to vote at two polling locations that closed due to Hurricane Iselle on primary election day, Aug. 9.
Elections officials determined that the ability of voters in precincts 04-01 and 04-02 to exercise their right to vote was impaired and that this required the postponement of the election in those precincts.
The polling sites for the special election are consolidated to a single site at Keonepoko Elementary School in Pāhoa.
Polls were scheduled to open at 7 a.m. and ordered to be kept open continuously until 6 p.m, according to a proclamation by Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago made on Aug. 8. Voters still waiting after 6 p.m. due to overcrowding will be able to vote irrespective of the closing hour.
The timing of the special election was controversial, due to the area being considered a disaster area. Governor Abercrombie on Thursday extended Hawaii’s state of emergency from Aug. 15 to Oct. 17.
US Representative Colleen Hanabusa filed a motion to delay the election for the Puna district on Thursday, Aug. 14. Judge Greg Nakamura denied that motion on the grounds that he had no legal right carry it out. Hanabusa trails US Senator Brian Schatz by 1,635 votes in the race for the senate seat.
The state senator for the area, Russell E. Ruderman, also questioned the decision to hold the election on Aug. 15 (read his open letter here). He cited various problems, among them that many voters in the area were too preoccupied with disaster recovery efforts to participate or even be aware that an election was taking place.
Nago’s proclamation states that he consulted with Hawai’i County Civil Defense and the Department of the Attorney General. It was determined that “reasonable road access has been and will continue to be restored for the general population in those two affected precincts, and that the primary election can now be completed for those precincts.”
An an initial plan to allow voters who were unable to participate in the Aug. 9 primary election via absentee ballot was later rescinded by Nago, requiring voters to attend the Friday Aug. 15 polling location in person.