ACLU lawsuit rejected

State Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit filed on behalf of Pahoa residents over primary election.

Will Caron

Today the State Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Hawaii challenging the primary election’s results on the grounds that residents in Pahoa did not get to exercise their constitutional right to vote when hurricane Iselle slammed into the east coast of the Big Island right before the election was scheduled to take place.

The court dismissed the lawsuit at the request of the state, arguing that it “does not have jurisdiction under the statutory and constitutional provisions cited in the Complaint and First Amended Complaint to grant the relief requested [by the plaintiffs].”

ACLU released the following statement in response to the decision: “Every day, the ACLU works to defend and protect civil rights, including the right to vote. We believe that every person’s vote is important, and every person who wants to vote ought to have the same opportunity to do so. Many voters in and around Pahoa did not have that opportunity, and we asked the Hawai‘i Supreme Court to step in. Although the Court declined to do so, we are grateful that the Court considered this matter so quickly. While our clients are disappointed that they will not be able to cast ballots in the primary election, the ACLU will continue its work to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to vote—even when a natural disaster strikes—and we look forward to working with the Legislature to prevent these kinds of situations in the future.”

The lawsuit was filed on August 21 on behalf of six registered Big Island voters who claimed that the storm prevented them from making it to the polls. The lawsuit asked the court to allow people who weren’t able to vote because of the storm to be allowed to do so in a special election to be held before Sept. 20. The decision allows the state Office of Elections to certify the primary election results and proceed with preparations for the general election.