ACLU of Hawaii Files Class-Action Lawsuit on Behalf Of Inmates Denied Right to Vote

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
July 22, 2002 12:00 am

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ACLU of Hawaii
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HONOLULU–The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii today filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of William Remmers Jr. and other pretrial detainees at Oahu Community Correctional Center who were denied their constitutional right to vote in the November 2000 elections.

“”The bottom line is that these individuals were denied the most basic right in a democracy, the right to vote,”” said ACLU cooperating attorney Ronald Verga, who along with John Edmunds is representing Remmers. “”We are determined to ensure that others are not similarly disenfranchised in the upcoming elections.””

The ACLU lawsuit asks for a court order directing prison officials to ensure that pretrial detainees are allowed to vote and seeks an unspecified amount of damages. Dwayne Yoshina, state chief elections officer, and Ted Sakai, director of the state Department of Public Safety, and various department employees are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

According to the ACLU legal complaint, Remmers was eligible to vote in the November 2000 elections when he was detained in pretrial custody at the correctional center. Officials told inmates to sign up on a sheet posted on the wall and that ballots would be provided to them on Election Day. At least 10 inmates, including Remmers, signed up for ballots. However, when Election Day arrived, ballots were never provided and inmates who expressed concern regarding when they would be allowed to vote were either ignored or rebuffed by prison guards.

Remmers subsequently filed three complaints with the corrections authorities regarding the denial of his right to vote. In response, he was given conflicting explanations. Among the reasons given were that no certified officials present at the prison to monitor the absentee ballots and that the prison was not responsible for distributing absentee ballots to inmates.

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