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Mayoral recall effort fails in second attempt to collect signatures

Of 423 signatures gathered in second round, 310 were invalid

There will be no recall of Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino as petitioners in a second effort fell about 19,000 signatures short of the threshold to put the recall into motion.

The group, known as RecallVictorino.org, lacked 19,909 signatures in its second and final try to attain the 21,586 signatures needed under the County Charter, according to results issued Friday by the Office of the County Clerk.

In its two attempts to gather signatures, the group came away with a total of 1,677 valid signatures.

The 21,586 signatures needed amount to 20 percent of the 107,930 registered voters in Maui County during the 2020 general election.

“This concludes the recall petition for the removal of Michael P. Victorino as mayor, as the process in its entirety has been exhausted,” County Clerk Kathy Kaohu told the group’s main organizers in a letter Friday.

And per the County Charter, no new petition can be filed to recall the mayor within a year hereafter, Kaohu wrote.

The recall effort, launched in late October, had 30 days to collect the required amount of signatures. On Nov. 20, the group submitted 3,211 signatures, of which 1,647 were deemed invalid and 1,564 were valid. Because some of the signatures were found to be invalid, the group had 20 days to file a supplemental petition with more signatures.

The supplemental petition, due Dec. 29, contained 423 signatures, of which 310 were invalid and 113 were valid.

Signatures were found invalid for various reasons, including if they were duplicates, came from voters who were not registered or who lived in different counties, had different addresses listed on the petition and voting records or were not legible.

“Their results don’t surprise me and it’s time for our community to move past the grandstanding of a small vocal minority,” Victorino said in an email statement on Wednesday afternoon. “We are once again battling a major COVID-19 surge and my attention must remain on safeguarding the health and well-being of Maui County residents. By pulling together as a community, we can overcome anything, including a persistent pandemic.”

Sheila Walker, who led the effort, said in a news release Wednesday afternoon that the lack of signatures was not due to a lack of interest.

“We definitely had the numbers but people were too intimidated to sign,” Walker said. “Many feared for their jobs or feared other form of retaliation if the mayor were to see their names on the list of petitioners.”

She added that many residents who wanted to sign are not registered voters and that she will encourage others to register to vote in the future. Walker said some of her takeaways from the recall effort were that the County Charter and the voter roll are both out of date. Although the recall did not materialize, Walker said Victorino will be challenged in the upcoming election this year and expects him to be voted out.

Organizers and supporters of the recall have said the effort came out of concerns over COVID-19 vaccine mandates and possible lockdowns, along with the county’s spending of the millions of CARES Act funds received through the pandemic. Other issues of concern include affordable housing, the unsheltered population on Maui and water rights.

Walker was joined by other organizers, Paul Romero and Cullan Bell in the effort, according to county documents.

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

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