On the eve of inauguration day for the Honolulu City Council, there’s a big question mark hanging over the District 4 seat. The Supreme Court is weighing in after an opponent filed a challenge. With that Supreme Court decision pending, and the race not certified, Councilman Trevor Ozawa may not be sworn into office.
The Court Justices asked for more information on the margin of error for the electronic vote counting machines. They’ve also wanted to know more on how the intent of the voter is ensured in a close election without a hand count. The Supreme Court orders request that state and city officials give the information to candidate Tommy Waters, who ran in the District 4 race, and Matt LoPresti, who ran in the State Senate District 19 election against Kurt Fevella. The Supreme Court also made a similar order for the State Senate District 19 election, another tight race between Kurt Fevella and Matt LoPresti.
In a declaration filed Monday, Chief Election Officer Scott Nago says:
“…the machines are tested, voters are instructed in the manner in which to properly mark their ballots, and there are audits, I have no reason to believe there is a ‘margin of error’ as it relates to marks made in the uniform manner established by my office…”
According to the Office of Elections, Councilman Trevor Ozawa beat candidate Tommy Waters by only 22 votes. Waters could not be reached for comment, but he has requested a recount.
In a statement, Ozawa says he’s hopeful the Supreme Court will make a swift and fair decision dismissing the pending protests.
“…District IV will remain without any representation until the Court issues its ruling…further delays will result in District IV staff members being without employment after January 2, 2019.”
That’s when Ozawa is scheduled to be sworn in and voted in as Council Chair. As Vice-Chair Councilwoman Kymberly Pine says the council has several options while the District 4 seat technically remains vacant.
“One, of course, is just to take a recess until a later date so we can resolve the election results of that particular district,” said Councilwoman Pine, “or should I feel that the council has consensus on a temporary chair then we will move forward with that.”
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says it can be a little more complicated with only 8 members to make a decision.
“We’re already divided sort of informally divided 4-4, but we can always work things out because all of the council members know that we have a lot of work to do and we have to keep moving forward.”
A couple of the council members are hoping the Supreme Court judgment will be made before noon Wednesday before the inauguration takes place.