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Victorino recall petition signatures under review

County Clerk’s Office counting and verifying signatures needed to recall mayor

Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu (from right) wheels a cart while leading recall organizer Sheila Walker and recall committee member Paul Romero inside the county building Saturday afternoon in Wailuku. Kaohu met them with the cart to help carry signature forms, but it was not needed. Walker, Romero and others are seeking to have Mayor Michael Victorino recalled over COVID-19 mandates and other issues. The Clerk’s Office is currently examining and verifying each signature turned in by recall organizers, who need signatures of no less than 20 percent of Maui County registered voters (21,586) in the last general election in order to trigger the recall election. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui County Clerk’s Office is currently examining each signature turned in Saturday by a group attempting to recall Mayor Michael Victorino over COVID-19 mandates along with long-standing county issues that include affordable housing and water rights.

On Saturday, recall organizers turned in signatures they collected during the 30-day signature gathering period allowed by county law. Now the county clerk has 20 days from that time — from Sunday to Dec. 10 — to determine the sufficiency of the documents submitted. It will be followed by the certification showing the results of the examination process.

Lead organizer Sheila Walker of South Maui declined to divulge the number of in-person signatures they obtained or if they had reached the threshold of having no less than 20 percent of Maui County registered voters (21,586) in the last general election sign the petition.

But she did say on Monday that they obtained “a lot of signatures” and that about 95 percent of the approximately 500 clipboards that were used to circulate the petition around the island had been returned to them by the deadline.

Walker said there were still people calling her after the deadline Saturday night and Sunday trying to turn their clipboards in. She said this shows the group had more signatures that could have been provided to the clerk.

Walker had told The Maui News on Friday morning that 75 of the approximately 500 clipboards had been returned with about 3,000 signatures.

“I’m super excited,” Walker said on Monday. “I’m charged up. I’m ready for round two. We are not going to back down. We are going to push forward.”

Walker was referring to receiving the results of the number of signatures deemed sufficient or insufficient and the opportunity to obtain more signatures.

In an email, County Clerk Kathy Kaohu explained, “In the event the initial petition contains insufficient signatures, the recall petition may be supported by supplemental signatures, in the same manner and requirements as the recall petition. The supplemental petition time-frame allows for 20 days to gather supplement signatures.”

If the total signatures on the petition do not meet the 20 percent Maui County Charter requirement, the petition could be deemed “insufficient.” A signature could also be deemed “insufficient” due to missing required voter information.

“While our focus right now is to determine the sufficiency of the information submitted to our office within our 20-day timeframe, there is a likelihood that the results of the certification may trigger a supplemental petition process,” Kaohu said.

According to the charter, after a supplemental petition is filed, the county clerk has 10 days to examine it.

If the clerk’s examination shows it to be still insufficient, no new petition for the recall of the mayor can be filed within one year thereafter.

On Friday, Victorino echoed his previous sentiments about the effort, saying he recognizes the group’s right to organize a recall effort.

But he added that he continues to serve the people of Maui County “with my whole heart” and said people have contacted his office with words of support.

If all signatures needed are gathered and deemed sufficient, 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 County Charter.

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

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

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