State Supreme Court to decide fate of City Council race with razor-thin win

State Supreme Court to decide fate of City Council race with razor-thin win
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly eight weeks after the general election, one of the closest races still hasn’t officially been decided.

Just 22 votes separated incumbent city Councilman Trevor Ozawa from his opponent Tommy Waters.

Waters and his supporters challenged the win and now, the State Supreme Court is taking a closer look at the results as well as the outcome of another tight race for state Senate.

Ozawa is scheduled to be sworn in for his second term on Wednesday and it looks like he will also have the council votes to become the new chairman.

But all of that is up in the air as the state’s highest court waits for answers to some important questions.

Interim City Council Chairwoman Kymberly Pine says it’s likely those answers won’t settle the dispute.

“The lesson that we are learning from all of this is that your vote does really count. Just a family and their cousins coming to vote that day could have changed the result of that election,” said Pine.

She wants citizens to know that the council is still going to be working everyday. The only thing that will be left up in the air is leadership decisions and committee structures.

Everything hinges on the Supreme Court’s orders filed Friday, which ask the elections officials to disclose the margin of error for electronic vote counting as well as the procedures used to determine the intent of voters in close elections.

“We don’t have the hanging chads where a vote can be interpreted different ways but at the same time maybe this will open up new opportunities to evaluate the system," Pine said.

“Even possibly having hand recounts, but we are going to leave that up to the state Legislature.”

HNN Political Analyst Colin Moore admits our state election process is far from perfect.

"I think the larger question is why don't we have a provision and law that triggers an automatic hand recount when an election is so close- there's really no reason not to," said Moore.

He feels that even if the state did a manual recount, Ozawa would likely still be the winner. But with such a small number of votes, it’s not a bad idea for his challenger Tommy Waters to keep fighting until the very end.

“We know that these electronic voting machines make mistakes and 22 votes is well within the margin of error for these machines,” added Moore.

HNN reached out to Ozawa and Waters for comment, but neither candidate was immediately available.

The other close race being disputed before the Supreme Court is the battle for Senate District 19.

Republican Kurt Fevella defeated incumbent state Rep. Matt Lopresti by 116 votes. Neither contest can be certified until the Supreme Court makes its decision. If Fevella does officially win, he’d be the sole Republican in the Hawaii Senate.

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