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U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-HI

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is asking the Chief Elections Officer of the state, Scott Nago, to delay the special election in Puna on the Big Island until the residents can be informed about the special election and also dig themselves out from the devastation brought by Hurricane Iselle. Currently the special election is set for Friday, Aug. 15. See her letter dated Aug. 12 below.

Dear Mr. Nago:

Please consider the residents of Puna, Hawaii who are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Iselle.  Today, many in House District 4 remain without water or electricity, encounter roads that are still inaccessible or blocked by debris, have limited means of communication, and are struggling to put their lives and homes back together.

Should the proposed election proceed, voters in precinct 4-01 would not have access to a polling location in their precinct, as the State has called for the consolidation of precincts. Considering humanitarian and travel conditions, this is an unfair burden to put on the voters of precinct 4-01.

In addition, the damage from this natural disaster was not isolated to the two precincts in House District 4 that were closed on Saturday August 9, 2014 – Precinct 01 and Precinct 02.  Although open to the public, I have learned that residents were unable to access Precinct 03 and Precinct 04 on Saturday August 9, 2014 because the local roads to and from their homes, miles away from the precincts, were inaccessible.

The issue is nonpartisan.  To ensure a full and fair opportunity for each person to exercise their right to vote, and to allow the residents of Puna time to get back on their feet and restore the basic necessities of life, I respectfully request that the Office of Elections:

(1) Delay the announced primary election on Friday August 15, 2014 for the precincts in House District 4 that were closed on Saturday August 9, 2014 – Precinct 01 and Precinct 02 until such time that they can vote at their usual and normal polling location; and

(2) Reopen voting for those voters who, because of the extensive damage or blocked roadways, were unable to access the two precincts in House District 4 that were open on Saturday August 9, 2014 – Precinct 03 and Precinct 04.

To proceed with the announced election on Friday August 15, 2014 would significantly impair the right to vote for the residents of House District 4.  With blocked roads, widespread damage, and limited means of communication, there is no practical manner to ensure that all residents will receive adequate notice of the announced election on Friday August 15, 2014, or be able to access the precincts on that day.

I ask that you not rush for the sake of convenience.  In our democracy, the law should be exercised to allow the fullest protections of the right to vote.  The Hawai‘i statute allows for a period of twenty-one days in which to conduct this postponed election.  Please use this time to put the needs of the Puna residents ahead of the election.

Finally, to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest, I request that the Office of Elections seek independent legal counsel apart from Attorney General David Louie, who was witnessed in person on election night at the campaign headquarters of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.

To ensure unbiased counsel through the remainder of this election, the Office of Elections should not continue to receive legal advice from Mr. Louie who may have the appearance of conflicting roles in advocating for a candidate on one hand, yet attempting to offer independent counsel to your agency on the other hand.  If Mr. Louie was involved or consulted for the decision to schedule the election on Friday August 15, 2014, I request that the Office of Elections revisit this decision along with independent counsel.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Colleen Hanabusa

cc:  Office of the County Clerk, County of Hawaii

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