Tuesday, December 29, 1998

High court
asked to act
in vote dispute

The Democrats want
challenges over before the
Legislature convenes

By Craig Gima


Lawyers for the state Democratic Party are asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to expedite a hearing on a complaint challenging the election of Republican Emily Auwae in Waianae's 44th House District.

The reason: the election result cannot be certified until the court challenge is resolved, and if no court ruling comes in three weeks, that seat and another Republican House seat could be vacant on Jan. 20, opening day of the 1999 Legislature.

"Technically, there is no representative at least right now sitting for that district," said William Gilardy Jr., the attorney for the state Democratic Party.

Rep. Barbara Marumoto's election is also facing a court challenge from her Democratic opponent in the Waialae-Kahala-Maunalani Heights district. Marumoto beat Steve Tataii by 7,573 votes, but Tataii claims an ad run by a group opposed to same-sex marriage did not include his name and may have cost him thousands of votes.

"Let's hope the Supreme Court meets soon," Marumoto said. "We should develop some new procedures so there won't be any questions in these things."

Auwae defeated Democratic incumbent Merwyn Jones by 21 votes in the November election. But the Democratic Party claims there was an abnormal number of ballots disqualified due to persons voting for more than one candidate in the race.

"There has to be a mistake or some kind of wrongdoing," Gilardy said. "I'm not saying it was fraud because I don't know, but something happened."

Gilardy said the party wants the court to order a special election or appoint a special master to look at the ballots to see if errors were made.

Responding to the party's complaint, the state attorney general and the Office of Elections said the Democratic Party has not shown fraud or that a mistake could have changed the election's results.

"The Democratic Party is . . . asking this court to authorize a fishing expedition by ordering the extraordinary use of a Special Master," the attorney general's office wrote in its motion to dismiss the complaint.

The Office of Elections also said the precinct counters at the site were tested after the election and read other ballots correctly.

It also submitted signed declarations from precinct workers that they noticed no irregularities at the voting place.

In its original complaint, the Democratic Party alleged that there had to be a mistake or fraud because of the large number of disqualified ballots from one precinct. A University of Hawaii professor suggested the large number of "overvotes" was statistically impossible.

Pearl Imada Iboshi, head of the Research and Economic Analysis Division of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, submitted a statement refuting the party's experts.

She said the party's analysis failed to take into consideration that the population characteristics of the precinct, including the number of first-time voters and education level of the voters, could be different from those of neighboring precincts and the rest of the state.

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