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Group renews challenge to Rep. Say’s qualifications to serve

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A group of voters has renewed its request for an investigation into a state representative’s qualifications to serve.

Lance Collins is the lawyer for a group of six Palolo voters who argue that Rep. Calvin Say, the former House Speaker, doesn’t live in the district he represents.

Collins sent a letter, obtained by The Associated Press, to House Speaker Joe Souki asking him to take action on the issue.

In the letter, Collins asks the House to “expel Calvin Say for his usurpation of office and lack of constitutional qualifications.” The group says Say lives in Pauoa Valley, and they claim the house in Palolo Valley that Say uses for voter registration is uninhabited.

“It’s really an issue of the people making the laws following the laws,” Collins said in an interview.

Carolyn Tanaka, spokeswoman for Souki, confirmed Tuesday that Souki received the letter late Friday. “It is in the process of being reviewed,” Tanaka said.

Say didn’t immediately return phone calls for comment Tuesday, but he has maintained that he’s a lifelong resident of his district. In a September court filing, he asked a court to conclude the debate over his residency so he could focus on state issues. Circuit Court Judge Karen Nakasone ruled, however, that courts can’t decide whether a representative meets residency requirements. She said that’s a matter for the House.

Say was first elected to the Hawaii House to represent the Kaimuki and Palolo neighborhoods in 1976. According to Collins’ letter, groups have been challenging Say’s residency for nearly a decade. The group of six Palolo voters asked the Legislature to intervene in 2013, but the House referred the matter to the courts, leading to Nakasone’s ruling.

The Palolo voters asked Souki to intervene again in October, but at the time, Souki said he would not immediately take up the issue because he couldn’t unilaterally call the House into session. He also said at the time that all House members’ terms were ending in less than a month, so the House would not be able to take action as a body, which would be required if a member was to be disqualified.

The Legislature reconvenes Wednesday.

“Because there’s no precedent for this at all, nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Collins said. “Hopefully the House will give it a serious credible look and make a fair decision.”

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