Special election to be held Friday for storm ravaged Puna
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State elections officials say they will hold a one-day special election for two storm damaged precincts in Puna on Friday.
Chief Election Officer Scott Nago, in consultation with the State Attorney General, Department of Defense and the Office of the County Clerk, announced Monday that an election will be held on Friday, August 15th at Keonepoko Elementary School for the two polling places whose election was postponed due to Hurricane Iselle.
"After we assessed the situation, we felt that going with a polling place was the best. It will allow voters to go to a place to cast their ballots," Nago said.
Only voters who are assigned to Hawaiian Paradise Community Center (04-01) and Keoneopoko Elementary School (04-02), who did not previously vote by absentee mail ballot or at an early vote site will be allowed to vote.
Polling place hours will be from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Voters in line at 6:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
Nago said his office will mail notices of the election to registered voters in the two areas. They also will place banners on the highways listing the dates, times and the place where the voting will be held.
The two precincts in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision have more than 8,200 registered voters, mathematically more than enough to tip the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa.
But the state Office of Elections said only 12 percent of them cast advance ballots for Saturday's primary. Those who wanted to go to the polls were not allowed to vote due to the extensive storm damage in their area.
Hanabusa said she was disappointed with the Election Office's change of direction and hinted at a possible legal challenge.
"A lot of voters in those twoprecinctss are without power and water and may of the roads are blocked with debris, isolating large pockets of the community," said Hanabusa campaign spokesman Peter Boylan.
"It is unrealistic to think people struggling to find basic necessities and get out of their homes will have the ability to go to the polls Friday."
The two Puna polling places closed Saturday weren't the only ones affected by the storm and residents in nearby Pahoa want to know why their voting hours haven't been extended.
State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna) is asking state officials to re-open voting for residents in this third lower Puna district after getting inquiries from more than two dozen people who weren't able to vote.
"We took the worst affects of the storm, they're isolated without electricity and they don't have access to the road," Ruderman said.
"They were hit by this unnecessary penalty of your vote won't count... it's not fair."
But Nago said there's no provision in state law that would allow his office to expand the voting beyond the two districts.
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