Politics

Hanabusa May Sue to Block Friday’s Primary Election in Puna

Congresswoman says voters in storm-wracked area are disenfranchised, receiving “disparate treatment” from Hawaii Elections Office.

·By Chad Blair

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said Tuesday that she is considering legal action to stop Friday’s scheduled election on the Big Island.

Speaking by telephone from Puna, where two polling precincts were closed the day before the Aug. 9 primary, Hanabusa said voters in District 4 are being disenfranchised by the state Elections Office.

“One of the things that became very obvious to me — I’ve been here since Sunday — is that the accessibility issue is amazing,” she said. “You could not access these communities. They can’t come out. … And, after that, to realize that Elections Office actually called it for this Friday, I could not understand why they would do that.”

The Elections Office announced Monday that the vote will be held at Keonepoko Elementary School, one of the two Puna polling sites that were closed.

Hanabusa, an attorney, objects to what she calls the “disparate treatment” of Puna residents by the Elections Office. She is in consultation with her legal team to possibly file a lawsuit with the Hawaii Supreme Court before Friday, which is a state holiday.

Colleen Hanabusa addresses supporters late Saturday as primary results were still trickling in.

Alana Hong/Civil Beat

“You can’t let this happen,” she said, referring to the election. “Every vote should count.”

Hanabusa is locked in a tight race against U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who leads her by just 1,635 votes out of about 230,000 cast in the Democratic primary.

A spokeswoman for the Schatz campaign said Tuesday, “Senator Schatz is working to help Puna residents get back on their feet. The independent nonpartisan experts at the Office of Elections and the County Clerk from Hawaii

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