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Pending storm disrupts pre-election Hilo tradition

By Derrick DePledge and B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 4:49 a.m. HST, Aug 7, 2014

Democrats, concerned about the approaching storms, have called off their traditional election eve rally on Friday in Hilo.

For more than a half century, Democratic candidates have gathered at the Mooheau Bandstand in Hilo for a get-out-the-vote event the night before elections.

Sarah Beamer, executive director of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said Hawaii island Democrats chose to cancel the event for safety reasons.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie had urged the cancellation.

"I do not do so lightly," the governor said in a statement. "I understand fully the history and tradition of this event. However, my primary responsibility is to ensure that residents stay safe."

Abercrombie, who voted on Wednesday afternoon with his wife, Nancie Caraway, at Honolulu Hale, said he would take "the campaign hat off" and help the state prepare for the storms. The governor is facing state Sen. David Ige in the Democratic primary on Saturday.

"I want to assure everybody that everybody in our state level, and across the state — county and all the nonprofits and the private organizations — are all mobilizing," the governor said. "We've been meeting in person and staying in touch. And I can assure everybody that the health and safety of the people of Hawaii is all that's going to be the focus of our concern until the entire weather situation is pau."

Anne Lopez, a special assistant to Attorney General David Louie, said that, as conditions existed on Wednesday, the attorney general has no intention of advising the governor or the state Office of Elections to postpone the primary.

"Based upon the most up-to-date information provided by civil defense, it appears that Iselle will not be of sufficient strength to cause damage that would substantially impair people's right to vote," Lopez said in an email. "The attorney general, in conjunction with the governor, the chief elections officer and civil defense, will continue to monitor National Weather Service reports as the storm approaches Hawaii. If conditions change which affect the primary election process, decisions will be made in accordance with state law and released to the media and the public as quickly as possible."

State officials said they were working on contingency plans in the event that evacuation centers that also doubled as polling sites needed to remain open as shelters by Saturday.

Some locales do not have enough room to serve both functions, Lopez said.

In those cases, she added, the chief elections officer has the authority to consolidate polling sites.

Notice of any consolidation would likely be determined and announced by Friday, she said.

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