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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

High court may decide date of special election

By Lynda Arakawa and Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Attorney General Earl Anzai will ask the state Supreme Court for guidance today on when the state should schedule a special election to pick a temporary replacement for the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, and exactly who will be allowed to vote in that election.

Voter registration

• Monday is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 5 general election.

• Register in person at your county clerk’s office, or mail in an application, postmarked by Monday.

• People who were registered to vote in the primary election do not need to register again.

• Registration forms are available at satellite city halls, post offices, public libraries and on Page 45 of the Verizon Hawaii yellow pages.

• For more information,
visit www.hawaii.gov/elections/voterreg.html

Gov. Ben Cayetano wants to hold the special election at the same time as the general election on Nov. 5 to determine who will fill out Mink's unfinished House term. Cayetano called that a "common sense solution" that would save taxpayers as much as $2 million in costs for the special election.

The problem is, state law requires election officials to give 60 days notice before scheduling a special election to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House. That means the deadline for holding a special election on Nov. 5 passed almost a month ago.

That prompted chief election officer Dwayne Yoshina to schedule the special election for Nov. 30, which would mean her replacement would only serve about five weeks. Mink, 74, died Saturday after developing viral pneumonia.

Anzai said his office will file a request with the state Supreme Court today for a "writ directed at a public official" that will tell Yoshina how to proceed.

"We are asking them basically to tell Dwayne he has the discretion" to decide exactly when to schedule the election, Anzai said. That would give Yoshina the legal authority to move the special election up to Nov. 5.

Gov. Ben Cayetano has said his request was prompted, in part, by the case decided in New Jersey this week in which the state Supreme Court allowed the Democratic Party to appoint a replacement on the ballot for U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli. Torricelli announced after winning the primary election that he was withdrawing, but the deadline had already passed for Democrats to appoint a replacement.

Cayetano said the state is seeking a similar exception here.

"Can we do it? We don't know," Cayetano said yesterday. "From a legal standpoint the odds are stacked up against us but we think that we should go forward and take a shot, especially after the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled in the manner that it did."

On whether there may be any technical problems that would prevent a special election from being held sooner, Cayetano said: "I'm really tired of hearing this kind of talk. If the court says we can hold this election on Nov. 5 then the elections office better be ready to print up some ballots and if they have to count it manually then they should do it. Just do it. Don't tell me it can't be done. We all know it can be done."

Cayetano said while cost was a factor in the decision, he wants to fill Mink's seat as soon as possible because "this is a very critical time for our country."

"Some of the issues that are being debated before the Congress involved the question of whether we will go to war," Cayetano said. "I don't have to tell you that if the United States goes to war there are some serious ramifications for all the states but in particular, Hawai'i. But if the case is made and that's what the Congress decides then we can all support it. But we need to have every one of our seats filled so that we have a full voice in the debate that's going to take place on that particular issue as well as other issues which are of importance to the state as well."

In another issue that will likely go before the state Supreme Court, Anzai said the state also wants guidance on exactly who should be allowed to vote in the special election.

The question is whether the voting for Mink's temporary replacement should take place within the 2nd Congressional district boundaries that were in effect when Mink last ran for office in 2000 or within new boundaries that are in effect today.

The boundaries of Mink's district were redrawn last year, shrinking her district slightly in Central O'ahu to account for shifts in state population. That means some voters in Waipahu and Mililani Mauka would vote in the special election for the 2nd District seat and vote in the general election for the 1st District seat.

In other developments yesterday:

• The state Supreme Court yesterday rejected, without comment, Democratic congressional candidate Steve Tataii's argument that his name should replace Mink's on the ballot. Tataii received 14,178 votes to Mink's 67,246 in the primary election.

• State Rep. Bob McDermott, the Republican who is running for the congressional seat in the general election, said he would also run in the special election to fill Mink's unfinished term. "It's my intention to win the general election and save the taxpayers $2 million and eliminate the need for any other special election in January," he said.

Reach Lynda Arakawa and Kevin Dayton at 525-8070.