The Hawaii Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in a case that stems from problems with the delivery and handling of ballots in the 2012 General Election by the state Office of Elections.
The case touches on both election law, and the rule-making requirements of Hawaii’s Administrative Procedures Act.
Law blogger Robert Thomas observed that it isn’t clear which set of issues triggered the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case.
Maui attorney Lance Collins filed suit against the state Office of Elections on behalf of the Green Party of Hawaii and several individuals as a result of the 2012 election problems. The plaintiffs argue that the Office of Elections should be required to adopt rules to cover the kinds of situations experienced in 2012.
The plaintiffs lost in proceedings in the Second Circuit Court, and that court ruling was upheld by the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court was then asked to overturn those prior rulings. Its decision is pending.
Here’s a description of the election problems from the ICA decision:
This case arose out of the 2012 General Election. It is undisputed that mistakes were made. There was a shortage of paper ballots in English at a number of precincts across the State. In addition, when reserve ballots were sent out to the
polling places, there was a mix up of the ballots sent to two locations; this resulted in 57 voters casting votes on incorrect ballots. It appears, however, that: all voters in line at the close of voting received the opportunity to vote; if English language paper ballots were not immediately available at a particular polling place, voters could vote at an electronic voting machine or on an alternative language paper ballot; every voter who signed a precinct book cast a ballot; every voter who voted on the wrong paper ballot had his or her vote counted in every race in which he or she was entitled to vote; and, none of
the races that could have been impacted by the ballot mix-up were close enough to have been affected. Nevertheless, as widely acknowledged, Appellees’ execution of the 2012 General Election fell short of the electorate’s reasonable expectations.
It was in response to those problems that the Green Party plaintiffs filed suit, seeking to force the Office of Elections to formally adopt rules to govern its procedures.
Here’s a description of the issues from the Judiciary website:
This case involves an action by the Green Party of Hawaii and seven registered voters who voted in the 2012 General Election (Petitioners) seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to HRS § 91-7 (2012) that certain methodologies and procedures used by Scott Nago, Chief Election Officer, and the State of Hawai`i (collectively “Respondents”) in the 2012 election are invalid under the Hawai?i Administrative Procedure Act (HAPA). Specifically, Petitioners contend that Respondents violated rule-making requirements for failing to adopt administrative rules pursuant to HAPA regarding the methodology and procedures used to determine the number of ballots to be delivered to the precincts, request additional ballots when a precinct runs out of paper ballots, and address the situation where a voter votes on a ballot that includes some races in which the voter is not entitled to vote.
I haven’t had time to listen to the recording of the Supreme Court session, which is available here.
Decision of the Intermediate Court of Appeals
Plaintiff’s pplication to the Supreme Court
State’s response in opposition
Green Party reply to the state