ACLU Hails Hawai'i Supreme Court Ruling Invalidating Ballot Question As Unconstitutional

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
September 2, 2005 12:00 am

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HONOLULU – The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i today cheered a decision by the state supreme court invalidating Ballot Question 1 of the 2004 general election because of significant procedural errors made by the state legislature.

“”This decision is a great victory for the Hawai’i Constitution. The Hawai’i Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Constitution is of a higher order than other laws and as such must be given due respect,”” said Lois K. Perrin, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawai’i. “”Constitutional amendments must be clearly identified and subjected to a full and robust public debate.””

Ballot Question 1, entitled “”Continuous Sexual Assault,”” did not start out as a constitutional amendment but instead changed into one very late in the legislative process. The ACLU of Hawai’i argued that the legislature’s failure to properly give the public ample notice and opportunity to comment on a proposed change to a document as important as the state Constitution violated several requirements, including that the proposed amendment pass three readings in each chamber.

“”A disturbing trend has emerged in Hawai’i where our Constitution has become a target for diminishing rights rather than a beacon for protecting them,”” said cooperating attorney Earle A. Partington. “”The Supreme Court made clear that procedures to amend the Constitution must be followed strictly and without short-cuts. Our democratic system demands nothing less.””

Lead plaintiff Patrick Taomae added, “”The Hawai’i Supreme Court’s decision sends a clear message to the legislature that their duty to the public is to carefully review proposed constitutional amendments.””

The ACLU of Hawai’i’s lawsuit was brought on behalf of 38 registered voters and is the second victory of its kind. In 2002, the ACLU won a challenge to a constitutional amendment that was on the ballot on similar procedural grounds.

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