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State asks Supreme Court to dismiss election challenge

The state on Monday asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to dismiss a legal challenge to the primary election filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case and that the lawsuit threatens to derail preparations for the November general election.

The ACLU has alleged that six voters in Puna on Hawaii island were deprived of their constitutional right to vote. The voters have said they could not get to their polling places in Pahoa for the primary because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, then were barred by the state from casting ballots in a makeup election for two precincts in Puna that did not open for the primary because of the storm.

The ACLU has asked the Supreme Court to allow voters in Puna affected by the storm to vote by Sept. 19. The suit also urges the court to invalidate a state law that gives the state’s chief election officer discretion over how to conduct a postponed vote after a natural disaster, contending that the Legislature should have prescribed the process.

But the state Attorney General’s Office argues that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction because the ACLU chose not to file a typical election contest that seeks to overturn a specific primary result. The only exceptions the court has made in the past, the state contends, involved constitutional amendments approved during general elections.

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