State’s highest court considers call for new election in key Maui Council race

The fight over a Maui County Council race continued on Thursday.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:06 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 9:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The fight over a Maui County Council race continued Thursday.

The Hawaii Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the battle for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu-seat.

Justices will either declare a winner or decide if a new election needs to be held to determine a winner.

Incumbent Alice Lee got about 500 more votes than newcomer Noelani Ahia in the general election in November. However, Ahia and about 30 other voters claim the Maui County Clerk mishandled more 700 ballot and are demanding a new election.

“The right to vote is so fundamental to our form of government, it should be zealously safeguarded,” said attorney Lance Collins.

Collins argued there were several mistakes processing the mail-in ballots, including failing to notify voters whose ballots were deemed deficient so they could have the opportunity to correct it.

“The exclusion of these lawfully-cast ballots was the result of erroneous deficiency determination of return identification envelopes, of arbitrary and unreasonable notice to voters of those determinations, and the erroneous withholding of those voters’ identities from the public during the cure period,” Collins said.

The attorney for the three defendants — Chief Election Officer Scott Nago, Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu and Alice Lee — argued they have no proof those violations occurred.

“Claims raised by the plaintiffs lack merit,” said Maui County Deputy Corporation Counsel Caleb Rowe.

“Not only do they fail substantially on the law, but they also fail to demonstrate errors that even if taken at face value, would have changed the results.”

Rowe said the claims are not grounds to challenge an election.

“The employees of the Maui County Clerk’s office are professional, competent and fair,” Rowe said. “It’s a responsibility that the staff takes extremely seriously.”

The Hawaii Supreme Court will come back with a decision at a later time.

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