KITV: Feds Threaten Lawsuit Over Hawaii Elections
HONOLULU -- With Hawaii's primary election just three weeks away, elections officials were dealt a big blow Friday by the federal government.
The state may face a federal lawsuit because Hawaii’s primary and general elections are too close together to meet the requirements of a new federal law….
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said when Congress passed the 45-day rule last fall, he thought Hawaii would be exempted. He said he was disappointed by the federal denial, but said the state attorney general told him the state would appeal.
Hawaii’s waiver request said overseas voters would still have 35 days to vote by receiving ballots by e-mail.
Hawaii was one of four states whose waivers were denied. Four others were granted.
During the legislative session, state lawmakers considered moving this year’s primary to August, but the idea was killed out of concern the sudden change would cause confusion and suspicion.
“It might seem as if we were trying to rig the election something that would just help incumbents,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Taniguchi.
State elections officials said they would collaborate with the federal government to seek a new solution. Taniguchi said that could involve counting overseas absentee votes even if they come in several days after election night. He said with so many Hawaii soldiers overseas, those late votes could have an impact on very close races.
SA: Federal law could delay November election tally
Pushing up this year's primary election day was considered at the state Legislature last year but was rejected because of fears of low voter turnout and complicating the primary election's operations.
Polling stations are typically reserved two years in advance to ensure availability and accessibility, and moving up the date this year would have affected training for poll workers.
Election officials have already been forced to close 97 polling stations around the state, with 242 stations left. Hawaii also has typically had among the worst voter turnouts in the nation.
"The Office of Elections is already undermanned, with the closing of all the stations," said state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill. "We relied on this waiver."
Instead, the Legislature passed a law that would push up the primary date to August in 2012.
Karamatsu said he can see delays in certifying election results, which typically takes days after the polls close.
Jean Aoki, legislative chairwoman of the League of Women Voters, said she also did not envision a waiver denial.
She said close races might rely on the absentee ballots and that the state must ensure all votes are counted.
"The elections office does not need this on top of all the other problems they've had," she said. "They're really gonna be hard pressed to meet this deadline."
AP: Hawaii Election Results May be Delayed
A new Hawaii law moves up the date of the primary election to the second Saturday of August, but it doesn't take effect until 2012.
State lawmakers had considered a measure to change this year's primary date to Aug. 14, but the bill didn't pass amid concerns that an earlier date wouldn't leave enough time for election preparation.
Hawaii has been in a similar situation before.
The state agreed to conduct a late count of ballots in 1986 as part of an agreement with the Department of Justice guaranteeing overseas voters enough time to receive, vote and return ballots.
Hawaii waiver denial: http://www.fvap.gov/reference/laws/hiwaiver.html
Move Act Waiver for Hawaii State Waiver Application
Initial Waiver Request