PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - With power and communications still out in some Puna neighborhoods, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa says that now is not the time to hold an election.
Hanabusa, who trails Sen. Brian Schatz by 1,600 votes in Hawaii's U.S. Senate race, said she plans to file a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court no later than Wednesday.
"Fundamentally, what we are trying to preserve here is the people's right to vote and making sure that people know that their vote counts," Hanabusa said in a telephone interview from Hilo.
The suit will ask the five justices for a restraining order to delay Friday's vote because the people in the Puna district need more time."People are definitely without water, definitely without electricity and it's going to be a while," she said.
Elections officials decided immediately after the storm to cancel walk-in voting at two polling places because residents and workers could not access the sites. Those are the only places where people can vote on Friday. Hanabusa said other residents who could not get to their polling places should also be allowed to participate in the second-chance vote and election officials aren't being fair to them."They made the decision based on whether or not the polling places were acceptable and that cannot be the basis of disparate treatment," she said.
But legal experts said Hanabusa faces an uphill battle.Attorney Tony Gill, and former Oahu chair for the Democratic Party, said the Office of Elections has "a considerable amount of discretion" when it comes setting the new election date. He added that there aren't a lot of guidelines that spell out how the office goes about picking that new election date."No matter how you slice this thing, no matter who is upset, the basic fact is that the state is apparently playing within the lines," Gill said.
The Hanabusa's legal advisers include James Lamb, of the Washington, D.C. firm of Sandler, Rieff, Lamb, Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C.The Hanabusa campaign outlined its legal issues in a letter dated Tuesday to Chief Election Officer Scott Nago.
That letter also accused Attorney General David Louie of having a conflict of interest and that Nago's office should hire an independent counsel.
Hanabusa noted that Louie was seen on election night at Sen. Schatz's campaign headquarters. Louie could not reached Tuesday night."If Louie was involved in and consulted for the decision to schedule the election on Friday, Aug. 15, I request that the Office of Elections revisit this decision with independent counsel," Hanabusa wrote.