U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said she was anticipating filing a legal challenge Wednesday to postpone the Friday election for two Puna precincts that could determine the winner of the Senate Democratic primary and two Big Island races.
Hanabusa, who is trailing Sen. Brian Schatz by 1,635 votes in the Senate race, said the delay would allow residents in the precincts more time to recover from damage caused by Tropical Storm Iselle. She also said she believes the notification timeline for the election is too short.
“I don’t know how anyone … can possibly feel this is in their best interest when you have 21 days” to finish the election, Hanabusa said.
Polling places at Hawaiian Paradise Park Community Center and Keonepoko Elementary School were closed during Saturday’s primary election due to storm damage.
The state Office of Elections initially planned to mail ballots to the affected voters, but announced Monday it would hold voting Friday at the school instead.
A Schatz spokeswoman said Tuesday, “Senator Schatz is working to help Puna residents get back on their feet. The independent nonpartisan experts at the Office of Elections and the County Clerk from Hawaii Island are in a far better position to evaluate how to proceed with this election than anyone else.”
Both candidates are in Puna assessing the damage and meeting with residents.
In addition to the Senate race, the Hawaii County Council District 4 and state House District 4 races are also impacted by the precinct closures. Their results are not considered complete.
There are 8,269 registered voters in the two precincts, 1,448 of whom voted absentee or at walk-in sites prior to Saturday, according to County Clerk Stewart Maeda. That leaves 6,821 voters who could still cast a ballot.