After HI Court Denies Appeal on Misleading Ballot Initiative, ACLU Vows to Challenge Vote's Outcome

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
November 4, 2002 12:00 am

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HONOLULU- The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii today vowed to challenge the outcome of a misleading ballot initiative after the State Supreme Court declined to hear its emergency appeal and halt a vote on a hotly debated public referendum issue known as Question No. 3.

The ACLU asked the court to intervene because the state had failed to provide voters with enough information about Question No. 3 for them to make an informed decision on Election Day. The court said it lacked jurisdiction to hear the ACLU’s challenge but left open the option of an ACLU legal challenge of the election results.

“We will continue the fight if Question No. 3 passes,” said Brent White, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawaii.

The state’s high court today denied the motion “without prejudice,” which allows the ACLU to challenge the results of the vote outcome in a circuit court.

In a hopeful sign, Justice Simeon Acoba issued a dissent saying that the ACLU appeal should have been heard because it was likely succeed on its merits and that the court should have halted the counting of votes since it does not make sense to count illegal votes.

ACLU attorneys filed the appeal in Watland v. Yoshina last week after a circuit court declined their request to halt the tabulation of absentee votes on Question No. 3, a public referendum issue that deals with amending the state’s criminal code. The lower court also refused to order the state to issue a notice to voters that it had disseminated erroneous voter information materials.

The ACLU has argued that voters must be notified of errors in the informational materials provided by the Office of Elections and that the results of the votes cast cannot be tabulated.

“The ACLU was compelled to file this appeal in order to ensure that everything possible had been done to ensure a system of fundamental fairness,” said Lunsford Phillips, an ACLU cooperating attorney. “Such a system must be in place before votes for candidates or proposed amendments can be counted.”

In what ACLU attorneys characterized as a “partial victory,” last week’s circuit court ruling did require the state to separately publish the text of amendment Question No. 3 in the daily newspapers through Election Day and to prominently post the text of the proposed amendment Question No. 3 at every polling place.

Today’s ruling came in response to an ACLU lawsuit, Watland v. Yoshina, filed on Oct. 23 on behalf of two registered voters, A. Joris Watland and Eric Gene Schneider. The ACLU charged that the erroneous voter information disseminated by the state on Question No. 3 undermined the election and violated their clients’ fundamental right to vote.

Question No. 3 would amend the state Constitution to eliminate the right of citizens to have a grand jury or a judge to review felony charges against them to ensure that there is sufficient basis for the charges.

For more information on the case, go to /node/9944

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