Friday, January 8, 1999

State high court
orders recount in
Waianae precinct

The audit could affect the
outcome of a House race decided
by only 21 votes in November

By Craig Gima


Two months after the general election, the state Supreme Court has ordered the office of elections to recount the ballots in a Waianae precinct where there was an abnormally high number of disqualified votes.

The results of the manual audit may affect the outcome of the state House race between Republican Emily Auwae and former Democratic Rep. Merwyn Jones. Auwae beat Jones by just 21 votes in November. The state Democratic Party, however, challenged the results of the election.

"We're pleased that they are going to take a look at the ballots," said William Gilardy, Jr., the attorney for the Democratic Party. "We'll see now if there is any indication that there is something wrong."

"I'll be glad when this is over," said Auwae, whose election cannot be certified until the Supreme Court challenge is resolved.

Auwae believes the audit will show she is the winner. She said, however, the last two months of uncertainty have been difficult for her.

"It's always on your mind." she said. "Every time a constituent asks you how you're doing you have to tell them it's still in the Supreme Court."

The Democratic Party alleged in its complaint that a precinct reader could have misread the ballots and that there were 163 overvotes in the precinct, a much higher number than in any other precinct. Overvotes occur when someone votes for more candidates than are allowed in an election and those votes are not counted.

Chief elections officer Dwayne Yoshina said he believes the results of the election are accurate.

"I don't believe the machine miscounted the ballots," he said.

He said he is working to comply with the order to have a manual audit team recount the precinct results and report back to the Supreme Court by Jan. 15.

There will be a cost, but he doesn't know how much.

Yoshina has not decided if observers will be present for the audit. He noted the audit team is made up of people from the different political parties.

But state Democratic Party Chairman Walter Heen said he believes there should be observers present at the recount.

"We're hoping that they will at least allow ... Mr. Jones and Mrs. Auwae plus an actual observer to go in and observe the actual physical recount," he said.

In another decision, the Supreme Court tossed out a complaint from Democrat Steve Tataii who alleged that an ad against same sex marriage which did not have his name could have cost him thousands of votes in his race against Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae Iki). Marumoto beat Tataii by 7,573 votes.

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