Court Asked to Halt Hawaii Election to 'Remedy Extraordinary Wrong'

Gregory Yamamoto

Hawaii's primary election is about 100 days away, and while the Office of Elections is busy preparing for it, the fate of the state's legislative districts remains tied up in the latest legal challenge.

Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's redistricting plan on Monday filed a motion for preliminary injunction seeking to halt the upcoming election.

"A preliminary injunction may be extraordinary relief, but here it is necessary to remedy an extraordinary wrong," the motion said.

A hearing on the request is set for May 18 before a three-judge district court. That date is 18 days before a June 5 filing deadline for political candidates. Meanwhile, the elections office is continuing to prepare for the Aug. 11 primary using the plan approved in March.

In the lawsuit, filed earlier this month, state Rep. Mark Takai and five other Hawaii voters argue the redistricting plan is unconstitutional and discriminatory because it removed more than 100,000 military personnel, their dependents and out-of-state university students from political district population totals. Four of the six plaintiffs are military personnel or veterans.

Despite the pending lawsuit, the Office of Elections is continuing to accept candidate filings for legislative districts that could end up being tossed out by the court.

If military personnel, their dependents and out-of-state college students are added back in to the base population, it could eliminate a fourth Senate seat the Big Island gained, and add back a Senate seat Oahu lost, under the existing plan.

"We're continuing work as planned, preparing for the August 11 primary election," said elections spokesman Rex Quidilla. "Candidate filings are ongoing. We're doing typical election preparations done after every reapportionment cycle — precincting, assigning voters, securing polling places, recruiting poll workers."

Asked how difficult it would be for the Office of Elections to adjust if the current boundaries are ultimately invalidated, Quidilla said his office had no comment due to pending litigation.

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