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Mayor recall organizers face deadline today

Signatures being collected, counted to turn in to County Clerk’s Office

Mayor Michael Victorino speaks during an event to mark the planting of Mahi Pono’s 1 millionth tree on Nov. 9. Today is the deadline for organizers of an effort to recall the mayor to turn in their signatures. The petition must be signed by no less than 20 percent of Maui County registered voters in the last general election, or 21,586 signatures. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Organizers of the effort to recall Mayor Michael Victorino are scheduled today to turn in what they hope to be nearly 22,000 signatures needed to initiate the recall process.

As of Friday morning, organizers had counted about 3,000 signatures from approximately 75 of the 500 clipboards held by individuals who were seeking out the signatures from around the island, said lead organizer Sheila Walker.

“I do think we (will) have enough,” Walker said Friday as organizers continued to collect and tally clipboards.

The 30-day signature gathering period required by county law ends today, she said. County Clerk Kathy Kaohu late Friday afternoon also confirmed the deadline and that she is scheduled to receive the documents at 4 p.m. today.

Walker urged those with the clipboards to turn them in by 2 p.m. today at Maui Pack and Ship in Kahului, as organizers will need to deliver them notarized to the County Clerk’s Office at 4 p.m. She added that signatures will also be accepted at the business until 3 p.m.

Maui resident Sheila Walker, who is spearheading a recall effort of Mayor Michael Victorino, stands in front of a sign advocating for the mayor’s removal. Organizers have cited COVID-19 mandates, the administration’s transparency and issues that include water and housing as the reasons for their recall efforts. The deadline for organizers to turn in signatures to spur a recall election is today. — Photo courtesy Sheila Walker

Walker and other organizers have said the recall effort is spurred by COVID-19 mandates along with issues including water rights, the housing crisis and issues surrounding the unsheltered population.

“Some people are more short term of what is happening right now, some people are really looking to the bigger picture,” she said of the recall motives.

Walker said it’s nothing personal against the mayor, but said “he’s overreaching his authority.”

“Mandates are just suggestions, they are not law. It is unjust for us to have to follow the mandates,” she said. “And I am tired of tolerating this government overreach. It is time to put an end to it.”

In an email Friday, Victorino said: “I recognize the right of this group to organize a recall effort and the process will play itself out. I continue to serve the people of Maui County with my whole heart and I thank the many people in our community who have contacted my office with words of support.”

The recall campaign was launched on Oct. 21 after Walker initiated and submitted an official affidavit with the Office of the County Clerk to begin the legal process.

Following an affidavit, no less than 20 percent of Maui County registered voters in the last general election must sign the petition. This means 21,586 in-person signatures must be obtained during the 30-day period, Kaohu previously told The Maui News.

If all signatures are gathered and verified by the Clerk’s Office, then Victorino has five days to decide whether or not to resign. If he does not resign, then a special recall election may take place where Maui County registered voters can vote on his removal, according to the Maui County Charter.

If the majority votes for removal, then Managing Director Sandy Baz becomes the acting mayor.

Walker said that if not all of the signatures they obtain are deemed “valid” by the county clerk, the group will be given 20 days to collect more signatures, according to the charter.

Kaohu said the office will receive the petitions today and will process receipt of the documents in accordance with office procedure.

“No signature verification will take place at this time, as we anticipate up to a couple of hours just for processing the documents received,” she said in an email. “At this time, without knowing how much will be turned in, it’s difficult to project processing time frames.”

She said the office will have 20 days, or Nov. 21 to Dec. 10, to determine the sufficiency of the documents submitted. This will be followed by the certification showing the results of the examination process.

Asked about the costs to county taxpayers if a recall election takes place, Walker said that the recall election is not statewide like the efforts to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom in California that news reports put at a cost of around $240 million.

“It’s a small county, it’s not a state,” she said, adding “it won’t even cost hundreds of thousands.”

Kaohu said the office is still in the process of putting a cost estimate together for a single recall election, but noted that estimates are running between $250,000 to $400,000.

She said that $475,000 is the amount estimated for Kauai’s two special elections to fill a vacant prosecuting attorney position.

Kaohu said in addition to the mailout ballot process, the office will still need to host one or more voter service centers and have places of deposit for the election period rather than a single election day.

Walker estimated that about 90 percent of individuals they encountered in the last month had sought out the recall group. About 5 percent were visitors who wanted to sign the petition but couldn’t (as they are not registered voters in the county) and another 5 percent did not know what was going on, did not know who the mayor was and/or didn’t care, Walker said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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