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Green Party sues state over ballot shortage

December 11, 2012
By BECKY BOHRER , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - The Green Party of Hawaii is suing the state and its chief elections officer over the handling of last month's election.

Two dozen Oahu polling places ran out of paper ballots during the Nov. 6 general election. In a lawsuit filed Friday in 2nd Circuit Court on Maui, the Green Party is asking a judge to strike down the methodology used to determine the number of ballots that are to be printed in federal and state elections.

The lawsuit also seeks to have the process by which precincts ask for and receive additional ballots invalidated, along with the procedure to address situations where voters cast incorrect ballots. The lawsuit claims the methodology and rules that were adopted and used did not comply with proper rule-making.

Attorney Lance Collins told The Associated Press on Monday that the intent is to improve elections going forward. "The ultimate goal is to make elections transparent and have integrity," he said.

Plaintiffs in the case include seven registered voters, among them Molokai resident Karen Holt. Hawaii's chief elections officer, Scott Nago, and the state are listed as defendants.

Nago said his office doesn't comment on pending litigation. But he said his office is looking at the formula used to order ballots and how it distributes reserve ballots. Those are ballots kept at a central location, available in case anything happens to Election Day ballots.

A report from Nago to the state elections commission last month blamed the ballot shortage on a "deficient model" for ordering ballots and failure to follow safeguards to change the order or reallocate ballots before Election Day and to get additional ballots out on Election Day in a timely fashion.

The model was based on 125 percent of turnout during the 2012 primary, due to an inability to compare current precincts with those that existed during general elections in 2008 and 2010, according to the report. Political boundaries were redrawn earlier this year, based on results from the 2010 Census. Nago, in the report, said the inability to make a direct comparison between comparable elections should have resulted in consideration of a higher percentage than what was used.

He said Monday that everyone in line to vote on Election Day was allowed to vote. He said he doesn't know how many people who had been in line left before voting.

Collins said the state can do whatever investigation it needs to, but the Green Party and voters involved in the lawsuit will exercise their right to have their complaint heard in court.

"It's one thing to say you're going to investigate, and it's another thing to actually do the right thing," he said.

* The Maui News contributed to this report.



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