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Big Island senator questions results of election

August 20, 2014
By CATHY BUSSEWITZ , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - A state senator on Tuesday questioned the results of a Hawaii County Council race, saying voters were disenfranchised when damage from Tropical Storm Isellee kept them from getting to polls on the Big Island.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman said he plans to file a complaint Friday at a meeting of the Hawaii Elections Commission.

"I disagreed with the decision in the extreme to hold the election with three days' notice when people had no TV, Internet or power," Ruderman said.

Ruderman previously said he would file a formal legal challenge with the state Supreme Court but changed his mind Tuesday.

The state Supreme Court has legal authority over elections, while the commission advises the state elections office and has the power to hire and fire the chief elections officer.

On Election Day, two precincts were closed in District 4 of the Big Island because of widespread power outages and downed trees that blocked roads. Two precincts remained open, but critics say many voters in those districts could not make it to the polls because of storm damage.

Voters were initially told they would be mailed ballots, but the Elections Commission changed course and instead held the make-up primary a week after the original election day.

Some voters in the two open precincts were upset because they were unable to get to the polls and weren't given a second chance to vote.

However, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said his agency was told no roads were blocked and people had access to polling places.

The Office of Elections initially thought mailing the ballots was the best way to go, Nago said. Then on Monday, the agency was told that all roads were accessible and one post office that services the area wasn't open.

"So once we found out there was access, every residence had some sort of access and was not blocked in, we went with the polling place and as soon as we could do it we held it," he said.

Still, Ruderman has called for Nago to be fired.

"It's not a personal thing, but there sure were a lot of mistakes, a lot of errors, a lot of poor judgment," Ruderman said. "Somebody shouldn't be keeping his job when the public is losing trust in the election process."

Nago said he wouldn't have done anything differently.

"We followed the law on this one," he said.



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