Hawaii lawmakers draft bills for recounts in close elections

HONOLULU (AP) — At least three state senators are drafting legislation that would require automatic recounts in close election races in Hawaii.

The bills being drafted seek to avoid or more quickly resolve election disputes such as the one ongoing for a Honolulu City Council seat, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The council is still without a ninth member after candidate Tommy Waters challenged Trevor Ozawa’s 22-vote victory at the last election.

Hawaii does not require recounts in tight races, but state law allows legal challenges of results based on certain criteria.

Candidates, the involved political party or 30 voters from the involved district can file a complaint with the state Supreme Court within 20 days after the election if they can show cause, such as fraud or voting irregularities.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on Waters’ challenge. The court could order a recount or a new election if it sides with Waters.

State Sen. Stanley Chang, a Democrat, said he is preparing to submit a bill that would require a hand recount in tight races.

State Sen. Laura Thielen, also a Democrat, is also introducing a bill that would require recounts in cases where the number of votes is within half a percentage point.

“Looking at what’s going on, it seems just really disruptive to have to go to the court, and it’s also inequitable,” Thielen said.

Her bill includes a provision that would require recounts within nine days. “So you would have some certainty, and people would be able to move on and government would be able to function,” she said.

State Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, a Democrat, said he is speaking with colleagues about introducing a bill requiring recounts in elections where the margin is less than 250 votes or 1 percent of votes.