The state Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the Circuit Court can hear a legal challenge to state Rep. Calvin Say’s residency.
Six voters in Say’s Palolo state House district had questioned his residency, arguing that the Democrat actually lives with his family in Pauoa Valley.
Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone dismissed the challenge last year after holding that the Honolulu city clerk -- and not the court -- had jurisdiction over whether Say was a registered voter in the Palolo district. The state Constitution requires House lawmakers to be qualified voters in the districts they represent.
The appeals court determined that Nakasone was in error and that the Circuit Court does have jurisdiction over whether lawmakers are eligible under the Constitution to serve in the Legislature.
The appeals court sent the case back to Circuit Court for trial.
“It has been an open secret that Calvin Say has lived for years at his wife's family's Pacific Heights home,” Lance Collins, a Maui attorney representing the voters challenging Say, said in a statement. “His children attended local schools there and his wife and now adult children are all registered to vote at the Pacific Heights address. Nevertheless, Say claims residency in Palolo because of his ownership a vacant house along 10th Avenue.”
Three earlier challenges to Say’s voter registration failed.
Say was the longest-serving House speaker -- 14 years -- before losing a leadership battle last year to House Speaker Joseph Souki, dissident Democrats and minority Republicans. Say has served in the House since 1977, and he plans to run for re-election this year.
Many of Say’s allies believe the challenges to Say’s residency were politically motivated to undermine Say’s reign as speaker. Say has not denied that he shuttled between homes for family reasons, but has maintained that the Palolo home is his residence.
“That’s absolutely right,” Say said.
Say declined to comment on the specifics of the appeals court ruling, which he had not seen, but said he considers the repeated challenges to his residency part of the price of public life.