HONOLULU – Attorney General Mark Bennett and Hawaii Chief Election Officer Scott Nago today announced that the State of Hawaii and the Hawaii Office of Elections has reached a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice regarding the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (“UOCAVA”).
The Department of Justice contended that Hawaii law violated UOCAVA because absentee ballots would be sent out about 35 days before the general election, rather than the 45 days set forth in UOCAVA. The State contended UOCAVA required that Hawaii should have been granted a waiver from the 45-day provision, as the absentee ballot plan prepared by the Office of Elections provided more than enough time for overseas voters to receive and return their absentee ballots.
The settlement contains no admission of fault by the State or the Office of Elections, and provides that the Department of Justice will not sue the State if the State complies with the Settlement Agreement. The State has not entered into any “Consent Decree” and the election is not subject to the supervision of federal courts.
The Agreement essentially provides that the State will expedite transmittal of absentee ballots to about 200 overseas and military voters (by either Express Mail or FedEx) and will facilitate return of ballots by the same means, at State expense. The Settlement also provides for communications between the Office of Elections and overseas and military voters to help facilitate their timely receipt and return of absentee ballots.
The Agreement also provides for reporting on compliance by the State to the Department of Justice and has certain other provisions.
Nago stated: “I believe this is a fair resolution of this matter. I am glad we were able to work collaboratively with the DOJ and avoid litigation, and the State has always been committed to helping overseas and military voters timely receive and return their absentee ballots.”
Bennett stated: “Like Mr. Nago, I believe this is a fair resolution, and I commend the Department of Justice for its decision to forego litigation. While I continue to believe the Election Office’s legal position was sound, the steps to which the State has agreed—which will help facilitate voting by our men and women in the military, and other overseas voters—are in the public interest.”
Submitted by the attorney general