Schatz leading after late votes tallied; final results may be weeks away

Published: Aug. 8, 2014 at 2:37 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 10, 2014 at 7:52 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz held a 1,635-vote lead over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the primary race for Hawaii's U.S. Senate seat, according to results released about 3:15 a.m. Sunday, in a race that's still too close to call. The tally was Schatz with 113,800 votes to Hanabusa's 112,165, in results that are still missing two Hawaii County precincts that may decide the close election.

Voting in two Puna precincts on the Big Island has been postponed because roads were impassable in the area after damage from Iselle, the hurricane that weakened to a tropical storm as it hit the island Friday. There are about 8,255 registered voters in the two precincts. All registered voters in the two precincts who have not voted early through mail-in or walk-in voting will be sent ballots in an election which must be completed in the next 21 days, the state's Chief Election Officer Scott Nago said.

The question is whether that leaves enough voters for Hanabusa to make up the 1,635 votes she is behind. Exact numbers are not available, but if the Hawaiian Paradise Community Center and Keonepoko Elementary School precincts in Puna follow the same pattern as the rest of the state, about 1,500 of those voters have already cast absentee ballots. Assuming every one of the remaining registered voters cast ballots, Hanabusa would need 65 percent of them to come close to catching Schatz. On the rest of the Big Island, the two candidates split the votes almost evenly.

Hanabusa was in the lead by a little more than 2,000 votes when the first printout, comprising absentee walk-in and mail-in ballots, was released just before 7 p.m. Saturday. But by the time the third printout was released about 9 p.m., Schatz picked up support and Hanabusa remained in the the lead by just 11 votes, with 80,365 for Hanabusa to 80,354 for Schatz.

Schatz had widened his lead by the fifth printout, released about 11 p.m., to 1,788 votes.

But then election officials spent hours counting mail-in ballots from Oahu and the Big Island. The counting was slowed by so-called "manual resolves," Nago said. That's when election officials, with election observers from the different political parties watching them, have to manually inspect primary ballots in which voters failed to follow instructions and didn't choose a party, Nago said.

Those voters who voted for candidates in more than one political party but failed to pick a party by coloring in an oval next to their party would have their ballots thrown out for "over voting," or voting for more than one party. Those voters who didn't choose a party but voted for candidates within the same political party would have their ballots counted, officials said. It's a slow, manual process that happens in each election night until the wee hours of the morning but usually gets little attention because big, statewide races are not so close that those votes matter in gubernatorial or U.S. Senate contests.

In the race for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination, State Senator David Ige completed a stunning upset of Governor Neil Abercrombie, marking the first time in state history an incumbent governor had lost to a challenger in the primary election. A joint Hawaii News Now/Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll taken before the primary election showed Gov. Abercrombie's approval rating had dipped to just 38%, though that poll was taken before Abercrombie's response to two severe storm systems that neared the state in the days leading up to the election.

Having won Saturday's primary, State Sen. David Ige will run alongside Shan Tsutsui in November's high-profile general election against the likes of Republicans Duke Aiona and Elwin Ahu and Independents Mufi Hannemann and Les Chang.

In the race for the Democratic Party's nomination to replace Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the U.S. House's 1st Congressional District, State Rep. Mark Takai won a landslide victory against State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, finishing with 42.8 percent of the vote with all 113 precincts on Oahu reporting.

Takai will now challenge former congressman Charles Djou, who handily defeated fellow Republican candidate Allan Levene, in the November general election. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who was unopposed, will be the Democratic Party's nominee for Hawaii's District 2 seat in the House, running against Republican Kawika Crowley, who won Saturday's primary election against Marissa Capelouto.Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa each won their respective primary elections.

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