A Hawaii judge upheld the timing of a makeup primary election Thursday for more than 8,000 voters on the Big Island despite a last-minute challenge from a Senate candidate who said they should have more time to recover from a tropical storm.
Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura ruled that the election should proceed Friday.
The ruling rejects a complaint from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is running in a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.
Hanabusa argued the scheduling of the makeup election doesn't give enough time for voters in two Puna precincts to regain power and road access after the storm hit last week. State elections officials counter that they were informed the roads were clear and have an obligation to finish the election promptly.
"This case is about a candidate having a different opinion than the chief election officer as to when the election should be held," said John Molay, an attorney in the state attorney general's office who argued the case on behalf of the head of Hawaii's elections office, Scott Nago.
"We need finality to this election," Molay said.
Hanabusa filed a complaint against Nago asking for a temporary restraining order to block the election Friday.
"There's a sense of mass confusion out there," her attorney, Richard Wardenan, said at the hearing. "What's the rush with all of this at stake?"
Wardenan said Hanabusa won't appeal the judge's decision.
Hanabusa trails Schatz by about 1,600 votes and faces a steep challenge to overwhelmingly defeat him in the two precincts and turn out enough voters to make up the deficit.
The race in heavily Democratic Hawaii is likely to determine the state's eventual choice to fill two years of a term for U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who died in 2012. Schatz was appointed to the seat after Inouye died.
Schatz campaign spokeswoman Meaghan Smith has said the senator is focusing on helping residents recover from the storm and that the court and state elections officials will determine the best way forward to maximize voter participation.
The election planned for Friday calls for voters to cast ballots at an elementary school with results released later that night.
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