HONOLULU - The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has asked the state's top court to allow voters affected by Tropical Storm Iselle to cast ballots in the primary election.
The ACLU filed the challenge in state Supreme Court on Thursday.
The lawsuit against Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago and others says voters on Hawaii Island were disenfranchised because they couldn't get to the polls due to storm damage.
Tropical Storm Iselle made landfall on Hawaii's Big Island less than 48 hours before election day. Two precincts in the badly damaged Puna region were closed, and voters were told they would be mailed ballots. But then Nago changed course and scheduled a makeup primary for a week after the original election date, leaving some voters confused about the logistics of voting. Some residents of neighboring precincts were upset because they were dealing with storm damage and couldn't vote on election day, but they didn't get a second chance to cast ballots.
Individual voters joined the ACLU in the filing. The ACLU said it's unlikely that the message got to thousands of residents who were without power.
"The government has a duty to respond to conditions on the ground to make sure people can vote," said Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, in a statement. "Here the government failed to do that, and changes are needed now to preserve the integrity of future elections."
Anne Lopez, special assistant to the attorney general, said she would not comment. Abercrombie spokesman Justin Fujioka said the state will not comment on pending litigation.
The suit is not a typical election contest because it does not ask the court to declare a different result of the election, the ACLU said.
"Although the votes in question may not change the outcome of any of the various races, the ACLU filed this suit because the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy," Gluck said. "Every vote counts equally."