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State Supreme Court dismisses election lawsuit

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

The state Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii over the Primary Election.

In its ruling issued Thursday, the court found it did not have statutory or constitutional jurisdiction or authority to grant the relief sought by ACLU.

According to the lawsuit, six voters in Pahoa were deprived of their constitutional right to vote because of actions taken by the state in response to Tropical Storm Iselle.

The group – Frances Lathers, Merrill Lathers, Cassandra Wylie, Brad L. Coffel, Kathleen Walker and Andrew Leo – was aksing the court to allow any Puna resident affected by the storm to vote by Sept. 19.

The lawsuit also asked the court to invalidate a state law that gives the state’s chief election officer discretion on how to conduct postponed elections after a natural disaster. Th ACLU contended the Legislature should dictate the process.

The state had urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

ACLU statement on dismissal of voting rights lawsuit

Case: Lathers et al. v. Abercrombie et al. No. SCOT-14-0001069

Every day, the ACLU works to defend and protect civil rights, including the right to vote. Every person’s vote is important, and every person who wants to vote should to be able to do so. Unfortunately, many voters in the Pahoa community were prevented from exercising that right, and we asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to help. Although the Court declined to do so, we are grateful that they quickly considered this crucial situation. While our clients are disappointed that they will not be able to cast ballots in the primary election, the ACLU will assertively continue its work to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to vote. Hawaii needs to do better – even when a natural disaster strikes – and we look forward to working with the Legislature to create safeguards to prevent future voters from being denied a fundamental right.

From the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruling:

In the Complaint and First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs ask the court to: (1) issue a declaratory judgment that HRS § 11-92.3 is unconstitutional; (2) issue a declaratory judgment that Defendants’ actions in response to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle infringed upon Plaintiffs’ right to vote; (3) require Defendants to allow Plaintiffs and any other registered voter who did not cast a vote due to the storm to vote no later than September 20, 2014, and to notify the voters in the most effective methods of the new election date; (4) enjoin Defendants from certifying the primary election results or, in the alternative, rescind any certification of the primary election results; and (5) award reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and other applicable laws.

Plaintiffs concede that their complaint is “not a typical ‘election contest’” within the meaning of HRS §§ 11-172 (2009) or 11-173.5 (2009) and that they do not meet the statutory requirements for an election contest. Further, the court does not have jurisdiction under the statutory and constitutional provisions cited in the Complaint and First Amended Complaint to grant the relief requested.

Therefore, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motions to dismiss are granted. The complaint and first amended complaint are dismissed.

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