Hawaii judge rejects Colleen Hanabusa's plea for a primary delay

schatz.senate.gov and AP/ Eugene Tanner

HILO, Hawaii - A Hawaii judge on Thursday upheld the timing of a makeup primary election 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.

Arguing that 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, Hanabusa had filed a complaint against the head of Hawaii's elections office, asking for a temporary restraining order to block the election Friday. Her attorney, Richard Wardenan, said ahead of the decision that the lawmaker will not appeal the ruling.

"As of this filing, voters in the affected area are still without power and local roads remain blocked," Hanabusa's attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. "With blocked roads, widespread damage, and limited means of communication, there is no practical manner to ensure that all residents will receive adequate notice of the announced election or be able to access the precincts on that day."

Hanabusa is challenging Schatz, who was appointed to the Senate seat following the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye. Schatz currently leads Hanabusa by just 1,635 votes, according to the latest tally of results from the state. Twelve percent of the 8,200 registered voters in the twoprecincts have already cast advance ballots for the primary, meaning the makeup voting will decide the election once votes are cast.

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.