Hanabusa might sue to try to postpone Friday election

August 13, 2014

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Democrat, from Hawaii's 1st district, talks to former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano, right, at her campaign headquarters Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Honolulu. Hanabusa is locked in a tight race with incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz in the state's Primary Election. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) said Tuesday she might take legal action to try to postpone Friday's election in two Big Island precincts where storm damage prevented voters from casting ballots in Saturday's primary.

In local media interviews, Hanabusa said she's concerned that residents in Puna, which was hit hard by Tropical Storm Iselle last week, are still recovering and could face serious difficulties getting to the polls on Friday.

“Paradise Park, in 04-01, for example, they are beginning to restore power in that area, but you still don’t have phone or TV or anything else,” Hanabusa said in an interview with Honolulu Civil Beat, referring to one of the precincts that is slated to vote Friday. “Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Shores in 04-02, the main roads may be cleared, but the side roads are still unacceptable. And you still have the issues of water and electricity.”

She told the Honolulu Star-Advetiser, "We're going to have to file something in court, because I feel that what's going on is really disenfranchising a lot of people."

Hanabusa trails Sen. Brian Schatz (D) by fewer than 1,700 votes in Hawaii's most closely watched U.S. Senate primary in a generation. She faces a very tough climb toward making up the deficit in Puna, where about 6,800 votes are up for grabs after taking into account absentee ballots cast in advance of Saturday.

Turnout in the primary has been low. If it's low on Friday, it won't bode well for Hanabusa.

State elections officials opted for the in-person Friday election after previously suggesting that voters would be given absentee ballots.

Schatz's campaign told local media that state elections officials are the ones best positioned to decide when to hold the vote.

Hanabusa also expressed concerns that some voters in other Puna precincts that were open on Saturday were unable to vote, and should be given another chance to do so.

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