Hawaii Senate Primary Could Come Down to Votes Delayed by Storm

Image: Hawaii Senate Primary Could Come Down to Votes Delayed by Storm U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii. (Handout/hanabusahouse.gov)

Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 10:50 AM

By Andrea Billups

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U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is running in a Democratic U.S. Senate primary from Hawaii, says Tropical Storm Iselle may have kept voters from casting ballots in last Saturday's election.

With the primary now too close to call, she is speaking with attorneys about access "irregularities" and considering her options as more residents speak out to say they wanted to vote but were kept away because of the weather, Politico reported.

"We've got a lot of people coming up to us saying, 'We couldn't get out to vote but they didn't close us down,' " she said of voters on Hawaii's Big Island. "We have a lot of people who are talking about the election because they felt in fact they were disenfranchised."

In two precincts in Puna, where polls were forced to close by the storm, voters will get their chance to cast ballots on Friday. Those may well be the difference in deciding whether Hanabusa or incumbent Brian Schatz moves ahead, as Schatz now holds a lead of 1,635 votes. About 7,000 could cast ballots in the two precincts.

It may still be tough for some to get to the polls as trees and power lines have been downed and many are still relying on relief efforts for water and food. Both Schatz and Hanabusa have been volunteering to help residents there as they work to put their homes and lives back together. One pollster said Hanabusa will need a miracle turnout of Japanese-American voters in Puna to push her over the top.

The Washington Post, in handicapping the race, noted that while Hanabusa hasn't yet lost her primary "she almost certainly will."

"If these guys show up with ice and water, and maybe a chain saw, they have my vote," noted voter Dennis Alstrand, speaking to Honolulu's Star-Advertiser.

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