Despite Tropical Storm Iselle's battering of the Big Island, Saturday's primary election will go on as scheduled. However, that's not the case for two precincts in the Big Island's Puna District.
The Office of Elections has deemed Hawaii Paradise Community Center and Keoneopoko Elementary School inaccessible because of dozens of massive trees brought down by Friday's storm. State Attorney General David Louie said there's not enough time for crews to remove all of the debris before the election.
"There's been such serious damage unfortunately (and) there have been all kinds of road closures," Louie told KITV4. "We got civil defense reports that show there are miles of roads that have albizia trees."
Instead of casting a ballot in person, Puna residents who would normally use the two affected polling sites will vote by absentee ballot. Under state law, the Office of Elections can postpone an election for no more than 21 days because of a natural disaster.
Government watchdog group Common Cause Hawaii is watching developments on the Big Island closely. In the 2012 general election, 3,880 Puna residents used Hawaii Paradise Community Center and Keoneopoko Elementary School to cast their votes in person.
"We think it's unfortunate that two precincts are hard to be reached by their constituents," said Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Carmille Lim, "but we understand the Office of Elections is doing what they can to host accessible and fair elections."
Still, some voters and candidates may question the fairness of releasing results from the Big Island's House District 4 race before voters at the two affected polling sites have had a chance to cast votes. Louie explained there's not much of an alternative, since the procedure for releasing results is spelled out under state law.
"What it says is that you can postpone an election for people whose right to vote has been impaired, (but) that will not affect how you tabulate and how you distribute or report the results from the rest of the election," said the state attorney general.
With five Democrats challenging controversial state Rep. Faye Hanohano, releasing results before all voters have made up their minds could influence which candidate makes it to November's general election.
Earlier this year, Hanohano was reprimanded by House Speaker Joe Souki and forced to apologize because of her conduct in committee hearings and because of ethnic slurs she made in the presence of workers from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
"People can vote strategically and we don't want that to inadvertently affect elections," said Lim. "Ideally, we would want people to vote on who they connect with and whose issues align best with theirs."
Election postponed at 2 Big Island precincts
'There's been such serious damage unfortunately (and) there have been all kinds of road closures,' said state Attorney General David LouieUPDATED 10:57 PM HST Aug 08, 2014
Despite Tropical Storm Iselle's battering of the Big Island, Saturday's primary election will go on as scheduled. However, that's not the case for two precincts in the Big Island's Puna District.Recommended