In council race dispute, justices grill officials over handling of absentee ballots

Tommy Waters lost his bid for City Council by just 22 votes, but he argues that late absentee...
Tommy Waters lost his bid for City Council by just 22 votes, but he argues that late absentee ballots were mishandled. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Published: Jan. 16, 2019 at 4:54 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Supreme Court justices grilled elections officials Tuesday over how they handled absentee ballots as they considered a challenge to a narrow City Council win.

The case involves a dispute between City Council incumbent Trevor Ozawa and Tommy Waters.

Ozawa technically won his East Honolulu council seat by just 22 votes.

But Waters is contesting the election — and questioning how officials handled absentee ballots collected after 6 p.m. on the day of the general election.

At issue: 350 absentee ballots that were picked up by the city clerk after polls had closed.

Waters and his supporters want the ballots invalidated, and are calling for a new election (or at least a hand recount).

“(There were) weird things going on,” Waters said, during the hearing Tuesday.

In court, justices grilled the city’s deputy corporation counsel on when exactly the 350 absentee envelopes were collected. A lack of information from the U.S. Postal Service left the city without some answers.

“I don’t understand how clerk doesn’t have duty to sweep the post office,” said Justice Richard Pollack.

Meanwhile, the state deputy attorney general says there is no evidence of counting error.

Ozawa was poised to became the City Council’s chair but the election dispute has left East Honolulu without a representative on the body. It’s not clear when the state Supreme Court will rule in the case.

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