BREAKING - CONTESTED MAUI ELECTION
Hawaii Supreme Court sets Jan. 19th for oral arguments in the Wailuku County Council election - Ahia vs. Lee
from Our Correspondent, January 5, 2023
The Hawaii Supreme Court set Jan. 19th to hear oral arguments in a challenge (SCEC-22-0000707) to the results of Maui’s Wailuku County Council election. That race was between incumbent Alice Lee, veteran council member and former council chair, and first time candidate Noelani Ahia.
In the original tally Lee won the election by a little more than 500 votes, but the challenge brought by Ahia and 30 Maui County voters argues the office of Maui County Clerk, then headed by Kathy Kaohu, made an error by failing to determine the validity of hundreds of mail-in ballot envelopes deemed ‘deficient’.
The court must decide whether to uphold the election of Lee, or order a new election in which Lee and Ahia would face each other again.
In the meantime, because Lee's election has not been certified, the Maui County Council has only eight members (and on Monday elected Tasha Kama as an interim chair) until such time as the court rules and a ninth member can be seated.
According to a document released today, the court must decide if indeed errors were made in the tabulation of the votes, but they were not of sufficient magnitude to invalidate Lee's election, in which case she would be declared the winner.
On the other hand, the five member judicial body could decide that mistakes were made by the clerk office which were serious enough to justify a new election.
In the meantime the court is asking a number of pointed questions that Kaohu and the state's chief election officer Scott Nagao must answer in writing by Jan. 12 regarding the methods used to invalidate the ballots.
It is also trying to determine if the Maui clerk violated election law by not naming voters whose envelopes were deemed deficient. Those written responses will be posted and become a part of the public record.
While the court could issue its decision on the 19th, it is likely that it may take a week or longer before the outcome is known.
Should Lee be declared the winner, it is rumored that the council has been advised to seat her immediately, and not wait until the 90 day appeal period has passed.
If a new election is ordered, it would be one in which every Maui voter has the opportunity to vote again, and it is estimated that process could take three to four months.
PDF: Ahia, et al. vs. Lee, et al. Complaint and Two Motions to Dismiss
ACSL: States With Signature Cure Processes
MN: Court hearing set for election challenge
HNN: Pending lawsuit over vote counting protocols keeps major Maui County Council seat vacant
DN: Press release: Maui voters contest Wailuku County Council election at Supreme Court