East Hawaii News

ACLU: Puna Residents Denied Right To Vote

August 21, 2014, 5:06 PM HST
* Updated August 21, 5:10 PM
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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday (Aug. 21) asking the State Supreme Court to allow any registered voter affected by Tropical Storm Iselle to cast a vote that will be counted in the August 2014 primary results.

An ACLU media release said the lawsuit also asks the Court to find 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 ACLU is suing over the right to vote and disenfranchisement of potentially thousands of affected voters, the release said, and not over the results of any particular race.

The ACLU points out that Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation on Aug. 6, in advance of hurricanes Iselle and Julio, that warned of a disaster “of such magnitude to warrant preemptive and protective action to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the people.”

Then when facing massive damage from Iselle on Aug. 8, with thousands of County residents dealing with historic flooding, power outages, property damage and road closures, the Chief Elections Officer determined that the primary election would go on as scheduled on Aug. 9, the ACLU said.

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The Chief Elections Officer also changed the rules of the election (who could vote, where and how) at least two more times over the course of three days, the lawsuit alleges, leading to the denial of the right to vote for many Hawai‘i County residents.

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“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,” said Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney.

“This is about an individual exercising a fundamental right and not about the results of any single race,” Gluck said.

“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.”

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