Hawaii election to be held Friday in precincts closed by storm


Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa faced questions from Hawaii News Now reporters during their debate on Thursday July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/The Star-Advertiser, Cindy Ellen Russell)

Updated at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday

Hawaii elections officials have scheduled a Friday election in two Big Island precincts that were closed due to storm damage during Saturday's primary. This means the deadlocked Democratic race for U.S. Senate is likely to be decided that day.

The decision to hold an in-person election marks a shift from previously announced plans to have voters in those precincts return absentee ballots in the coming weeks. Damage from Tropical Storm Iselle prevented voters from casting ballots on Saturday.

The vote in the Puna precincts are expected to decide the outcome of the hotly contested Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, which remains too close to call. Sen. Brian Schatz leads Rep. Colleen Hanabusa by 1,635 votes. The Associated Press has not called the race.

“We’re about to send a letter to all voters stating the time, place, some of the provisions of the polling place. The counties are also going to post signs on the highways,” Chief Election Officer Scott Nago told KHON.

The two outstanding precincts are home to about 8,200 voters, some of whom voted by absentee ballot in advance of the primary. Hanabusa appears to face a tough climb toward closing the gap between her and Schatz.

In a statement, Hanabusa spokesman Peter Boylan called the state's decision "disappointing" and said the campaign is reviewing its legal options.

"A lot of voters in those two precincts are without power and water and many of the roads are blocked with debris, isolating large pockets of the community," he said. "It is unrealistic to think people struggling to find basic necessities and get out of their homes will have the ability to go to the polls Friday."

Schatz's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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