Han Challenges Council Election Results Over Voter Intimidation

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat

UPDATED 8/24/12 2:28 p.m.

Honolulu City Council candidate Martin Han is raising allegations of voter intimidation in his loss to Joey Manahan, a state House member.

Han's concerns echo those made last week by a family in the same Kalihi area. They said Romy Cachola, a term-limited city council member running for the state House, intimidated an elderly woman into filling out her ballot as he watched and then took it from her to mail.

Han filed a complaint Thursday with the Hawaii Supreme Court that says Manahan secured an abnormally large number of absentee votes by intimidating residents at their homes. He also says illegal signage at a couple polling places on election day helped sway voters.

Manahan won the Aug. 11 primary election with 51 percent of the overall vote. Han finished second with 25 percent and Lillian Hong was third with 13 percent.

UPDATED 8/22/12 3:45 p.m. Since Manahan garnered more than 50 percent of the overall vote, he won outright and there will be no run-off in the Nov. 6 general election. Under state election law, the 1,586 blank and invalid votes are not counted in determining whether someone topped the 50 percent threshold. So to be clear, looking only at valid votes, Manahan won by 7 percent, or 1,870 votes.

"We believe we have community members that were afraid, and were told how to vote," Han said at a news conference Tuesday, accompanied by supporters at his Dillingham office. "I filed to contest this race for future candidates who want to run for office, who want to make a difference in their community, and who may choose not to because they are afraid to say anything or afraid to challenge the political machine."

In addition to Manahan, Han names Cachola in the complaint and Chief Election Officer Scott Nago.

Cachola and Manahan deny any wrongdoing. The Elections Office deferred comment to the state Attorney General's Office, which is expected to respond to the complaint this week.

"I am absolutely confident we won fair and square," Manahan said in a statement Tuesday. "Our campaign has always been transparent, and I am sure that the Office of Elections will find no violations."

Manahan did not respond to a request for an interview.

Cachola defeated political newcomer Nicole Velasco by 120 votes for the state House District 30 seat, which represents Sand Island, Kalihi and the Honolulu Airport area. Like Manahan, Cachola received a significant number of absentee votes to help him win.

During the press conference Tuesday, he handed out copies of his complaint and detailed his concerns with Manahan and Cachola.

Han said it was "surprising and alarming" that both Cachola and Manahan would receive such a relatively high number of absentee votes — 685 and 777, respectively — from Precinct 30-02, which covers Sand Island and parts of Kalihi.

In Manahan's previous three elections for state House District 29, the highest number of absentee ballots he ever received was just over 100, Han said.

A Civil Beat analysis found that more than 70 percent of those who voted for Cachola in the primary against Velasco did so via mail-in ballot, far above the average. In all, 41 percent of the votes cast in the election were mail-in.

A family who lives in the district told Civil Beat last week that Cachola visited their home and other neighborhood families, pressuring them to vote for him.

Cachola has said he was only assisting voters and did everything "above board." He did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Han said residents have accused Manahan of employing similar tactics.

"We actually had community leaders come after the primary and tell that they had a visit between Mr. Cachola and Mr. Manahan in regards to their absentees," Han said. "When you have a political officer come into your house it's a little intimidating. ... I really want the Office of Elections to see if they have similar people that voted for them and ask them if they were pressured to vote."

Han said the district has a high number of Filipino residents, including himself, Cachola and Manahan.

"In our culture, a visit from a political official can be very daunting, especially for senior voters," Han said.

Several retirees rallied to support Han at his news conference, including Han's uncle, Edmund Calaycay. A physician, Calaycay was a former mayor in the Philippines.

"I get involved because I want a new leadership, young ones," Calaycay said. "We have not yet surrendered our fight. We are still fighting and I hope victory will come."

UPDATED 8/24/12 2:28 p.m. Two of Velasco's uncles, Gene Albano and Mar Velasco, were among the people who attended Han's news conference, although Velasco did not file a complaint to contest the election results in her race against Cachola.

Albano had this to say after the news conference: "Let us maintain the integrity of the ballot by letting the voters to vote on their own free will." Albano said he and Velasco will support any move or action to stop the irregularities in absentee ballot voting done by anyone.

On Friday, Albano said he and Mar Velasco — known publicly to be very strong supporters of Nicole Velasco and to campaign for Manahan — were at Han's news conference out of curiosity to see what he had to say to the public.

The deadline to file a complaint was Monday. The three defendants have until Friday to respond to Han's complaint, filed by attorney Teresa Morrison. The Supreme Court then has to make a decision by Aug. 30 under state elections law.

Hawaii law prohibits voter intimidation, among other types of fraud.

Here's a copy of the complaint:

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