A state Circuit Court judge on Thursday ruled that the state Office of Elections can proceed with a vote Friday for two precincts in Puna that could not open for Saturday’s primary in the wake of Tropical Storm Iselle. U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who trails U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz by 1,635 votes in the Democratic primary for Senate, had asked for a temporary restraining order to delay the vote until residents in Puna have had more time to recover from the storm. Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura said that if a popular poll were taken right now, the poll would indicate that “there’s some lack of common sense to hold the election tomorrow in light of the natural disaster caused by Iselle and people are trying to recover from the property damage caused by storm conditions, the lack of ability to freely move about, the lack of electrical power, and difficulties in regard to obtaining food and water.
“There are concerns regarding the adequacy of notice of the election and ability to vote tomorrow. Also there would be a concern regarding the legitimacy of the election if it is held tomorrow. If held tomorrow, likely a post-election challenge is invited and likely there will be a perception made — or there would be a public perception — that the election was not fair. “And, frankly, holding the election tomorrow shows some insensitivity to the plight of people in Puna.”
But Nakamura said that case law supports the view that “the court is not supposed to interfere with an ongoing election process even if it is unconstitutional. So the court is constrained not to grant the injunctive relief.”
State election officials have set the vote at Keonepoko Elementary School for voters in the two precincts that were closed for the primary. Results of the election will be announced on Friday evening.