Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who‘s trailing in the too-close-to-call Hawaii Democratic Senate primary against incumbent Brian Schatz, warned Monday of voting “irregularities” in precincts crippled by a massive tropical storm last week and said she’s speaking with campaign lawyers about a potential recourse. “There are irregularities that have occurred in terms of just access, and I’m hoping that the Office of Elections will look at it,” Hanabusa told POLITICO in a phone interview on Monday. Although much of the focus in the wake of this past Saturday’s primary has been on two precincts in the Big Island’s Puna District — home to some 8,200 registered voters — where polls were closed Saturday because of the storm and residents will vote instead this Friday, Hanabusa’s comments indicate for the first time that she’s examining the impact in surrounding communities as well, where polls were open but some voters were unable to leave their homes.
“We’ve got a lot of people coming up to us saying, ‘We couldn’t get out to vote but they didn’t close us down,’” she said. “We have a lot of people who are talking about the election because they felt in fact they were disenfranchised.”
Hanabusa emphasized that her conversations with campaign lawyers are nothing new; she has regularly consulted with them throughout the campaign. But the latest conversations about voter disenfranchisement come at a sensitive time in the race.
Voters in those two Puna precincts are dealing with parallel challenges: recovery after Tropical Storm Iselle and their new role as potential kingmakers in the Senate primary.