The rematch in the race for Honolulu’s City Council District 4 seat has become an even more contentious battle as the two candidates and their supporters trade accusations and make counterclaims.
A mail-in ballot, special election is being held through April 13 to decide whether Trevor Ozawa or Tommy Waters will represent the Hawaii Kai-to-Ala Moana Council district after the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the November election results putting Ozawa ahead by 22 votes. In their unanimous order, the justices said city elections officials should not have counted ballots retrieved after the 6 p.m. deadline to vote.
The Supreme Court challenge was brought by Waters and, separately, a group of 39 voters represented by attorney Thomas Otake, who on Wednesday criticized Ozawa for putting out what he called “an unethical false mailer” to voters in the district.
Ozawa, in response, said Otake was arguing semantics and that the mailer only sought to reiterate the argument made by the clerk’s office and his own attorney that votes were properly counted.
Otake, in a press release, said Ozawa “sent out a mailer this past weekend providing false information” about facts that were established during the court proceedings that led to the invalidation.
“His mailer claimed the ballots were not only received but also ‘SCANNED into the City Clerk’s computers BEFORE 6:00 p.m.,” Otake said. The Supreme Court’s decision was “based in large part on the ballots being received after the 6:00 p.m. deadline by the City Clerk, in violation of Hawai‘i State law,” he said.
City attorneys, representing City Clerk Glen Takahashi, never disputed in court that votes were counted after 6 p.m., and argued only that they believed it was OK to count them after that time.
Ozawa, as an active party in the court proceedings, “should be aware of the facts attested to by the city clerk as well as that his statement to voters in this mailer was false,” Otake said. “This is a clear breach of ethics and professional responsibility.”
He pointed out that Takahashi declared to the court that the ballots in question were not picked up from the airport post office until between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Ozawa said in an email that the city clerk’s office was allowed by the state for more than 20 years “to pick up ballots from the post office after 6 p.m. on the basis that the post office was the city clerk’s designated representative.”
Working with the post office, the clerk’s office “took the position that the ballots containing my 22-vote winning margin were timely received by the statutory deadline,” Ozawa said. “My flyer was made on this basis.”
City elections administrator Rex Quidilla, when asked about the statement that the ballots that led Ozawa to his 22-vote win were scanned before 6 p.m, said “we don’t know how anyone could conclude that.”