Botched petition sure to prolong rail spat
The city clerk has advised rail system opponents that their proposed initiative cannot be placed on the November ballot.
A flaw in a petition by opponents of a Honolulu rail system to require a public vote on the issue will keep it from being on the November ballot. Instead, a special election could be scheduled seven months from now at the earliest if enough residents sign the petition. The question is which side of the issue the new development would benefit.
The red faces of rail opponents following the announcement of the change should be more from embarrassment than anger. The petition specifically calls for a "special election," not a general election initiative, and the city charter clearly says special initiative elections cannot be held "if an election is scheduled within 180 days" of the petition's submission.
City Clerk Denise De Costa has interpreted that to mean that the petition cannot be submitted to her "before" the November election but can be submitted immediately afterward. Thus, a special election on the initiative could be scheduled for next May at the earliest.
It also could mean that more signatures will be needed on the petition. While a general election petition requires at least 10 percent of the total registered in the last mayoral election, a special election initiative requires 15 percent of the votes cast for mayor.
A relatively heavy turnout resulting from the presidential election could raise the threshold for petition signatures even more. (Rail opponents must decide whether to vote for a single-issue, anti-rail mayoral candidate, which would increase that threshold.)
Application of the rule also would drastically change the nature of the electorate. Instead of being one of many choices to be made on the November ballot, a special election on the rail issue would lure highly motivated and highly organized voters.
The rail opposition seems highly motivated and organized, so Mayor Mufi Hannemann's political organization and households that would benefit from rail would be severely challenged to get out the vote. A simple majority of those voting would be necessary to derail the project.
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