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Lopresti v. State

Supreme Court of Hawaii

January 9, 2019

STATE OF HAWAI'I; SCOTT T. NAGO, as Chief Election Officer for the State of Hawai'i; and OFFICE OF ELECTIONS, State of Hawai'i, Defendants.


          Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.


         We have considered (1) the election complaint, filed by plaintiff Matthew S. LoPresti ("LoPresti") on November 26, 2018, (2) the statement by Sherrie J. Course ("Course"), filed by LoPresti on November 29, 2018, (3) the motion to dismiss complaint or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, filed by defendants State of Hawai'i, Chief Election Officer Scott Nago ("Chief Election Officer Nago"), and the Office of Elections (collectively, "the State Defendants") on December 6, 2018, (4) the State Defendants' response to the court's December 28, 2018 order, filed on December 31, 2018, (5) LoPresti's reply to the State Defendants' response, filed on January 4, 2019, (6) the respective supporting documents, and (7) the record in this matter. Having heard this matter without oral argument and in accordance with HRS § 11-174.5 (b) (2009) (requiring the supreme court to "give judgment, stating all findings of fact and of law"), we set forth the following findings of fact and conclusions of law and enter the following judgment.


         The November 6, 2018 General Election

         1. LoPresti was the Democratic Party candidate for the Office of State Senate, District 19 in the November 6, 2018 general election.

         2. State Senate, District 19 consists of district/ precincts 40-02, 40-03, 40-04, 41-01, 41-02, 41-03, and 41-05.

         3. Each district/precinct has its own unique ballot type containing the contests and questions that the voters in those district/precincts are eligible to vote on, based on where they live.

         4. The election results for the race for State Senate, District 19 was as follows:

(R) FEVELLA, Kurt 6, 205 (48.0%)
(D) LOPRESTI, Matthew S. (Matt) 6, 089 (47.1%)
Blank Votes 623 (4.8%)
Over Votes 7 (0.1%)

         5. Kurt Fevella ("Fevella") received the highest number of votes.

         6. The difference in the votes between LoPresti and Fevella was 116 votes.

         The Election Contest

         7. On November 26, 2018, LoPresti timely filed a complaint[1] challenging the election results for Office of State Senate, District 19.

         8. LoPresti alleges that irregularities in voting or in counting of votes could have caused a difference in the election outcome or could have precluded the correct result from being ascertained. LoPresti also alleges that the 116-vote difference in the election equaled 0.9% of the total votes cast and, therefore, calls into doubt the election results. LoPresti further alleges that irregularities at district/precinct 41-02, including potential tampering of the ballots, may have affected the election results.

         9. LoPresti contends that the electronic tabulation machines were not working from the start on election day at district/precinct 41-02 (and possibly at some of the other six polling precincts in the district), that voters were told to take the ballots away from the machine and deposit them in another box that was not locked and secured, that precinct officials had access to the box of ballots throughout the day, that a precinct official (Michele Golojuch ("Golojuch")) who was openly hostile to his candidacy was present at district/precinct 41-02, and that ballots that needed to be tabulated by machine were "intentionally and deliberately physically altered and manipulated by poll workers." LoPresti maintains that these irregularities invited voter tampering and may have influenced some voters to vote against him. LoPresti also maintains that the precinct captain for district/precinct 41-02 did not closely oversee the process and "admitted to [him] that if she were in [his] shoes she would certainly ask for a recount of the votes[.]"

         10. LoPresti also contends that HRS § 11-172 is unconstitutional.

         11. LoPresti acknowledges that he was not present at any of the precincts on the day of the general election and that the concerns he raises in the complaint arise from conversations with the precinct captain or chair, Office of Election officials, and a voter who voted at district/precinct 41-02.

         12. LoPresti seeks the following relief:

• an order requiring a hand recount and entering judgment invalidating the election results for the Office of State Senate, District 19 on the ground that a correct result cannot be ascertained because of a mistake or fraud on the part of the precinct officials;
• if the recount shows that LoPresti received the highest number of votes, then judgment be entered electing him the winner;
• an order compelling witnesses and taking the necessary steps to fully determine what occurred on the general election day at the polling precincts in the ...

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