By Derrick DePledge
With the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate between U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in overtime, the outcome will rest on the vote in two precincts in state House District 4 in the Puna region of Hawaii Island.
Both Schatz and Hanabusa said Sunday morning at the Democratic Party of Hawaii's traditional unity breakfast that their first priority is helping residents on Hawaii Island recover from Tropical Storm Iselle.
But the Democrats will also be launching a ground game to drive out the vote, which will be by absentee ballot by a fraction of the 8,000 voters who have not already cast ballots by walk-in or mail before the primary.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie told Democrats that road clearing and other cleanup operations in Puna are underway and that the election would conclude as soon as possible
Here is the portion of state election law that governs the postponement:
(a) In the event of a flood, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, high wind, or other natural disaster, occurring prior to an election, that makes a precinct inaccessible, the chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections may consolidate precincts within a representative district.
If the extent of damage caused by any natural disaster is such that the ability of voters, in any precinct, district, or county, to exercise their right to vote is substantially impaired, the chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections may require the registered voters of the affected precinct to vote by absentee ballot pursuant to section 15-2.5 and may postpone the conducting of an election in the affected precinct for no more than twenty-one days; provided that any such postponement shall not affect the conduct of the election, tabulation, or distribution of results for those precincts, districts, or counties not designated for postponement. The chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections shall give notice of the consolidation, postponement, or requirement to vote by absentee ballot, in the affected county or precinct prior to the opening of the precinct polling place by whatever possible news or broadcast media are available.
Precinct officials and workers affected by any consolidation shall not forfeit their pay.
Schatz leads Hanabusa by just 1,635 votes, so the election comes down to turnout at the Paradise Community Center (HD4-01) and Keonepoko Elementary School (HD4-02).
The state Office of Elections has released the results from the other two precincts in HD4, and Schatz took both, so the senator may have the edge.
HD4-03 -- Pahoa Community Center
HD4-04 -- Pahoa High and Intermediate School
The district, represented by state Rep. Faye Hanohano, is among the most eclectic in the state. Some residents there have earned the nickname "Punatics."
At the unity breakfast, some Democrats -- sleep deprived and punchy after a long night -- privately joked that the primary resembles the plot from "Swing Vote," the 2008 movie starring Kevin Costner, who played a boozy egg inspector from New Mexico who held the deciding vote in a presidential election.