HONOLULU – The Hawaii Supreme Court refused to order the state's chief elections officer to remove the late Rep. Patsy Mink's name from the November ballot.
Attorney General Earl Anzai, at Gov. Ben Cayetano's request, had petitioned the state high court to remove Mink's name and allow the Democratic Party to choose a new candidate.
The Democratic and Republican parties both opposed the move, but Cayetano pushed for the petition because removing Mink's name would save the state up to $4 million on the cost of two special elections.
It took the court just one day to deny the governor's petition, saying Wednesday that chief elections officer Dwayne Yoshina has the discretion to remove her name or keep it on the ballot.
"It is within his purview to decide whether to do so or not,'' said Justice Simeon R. Acoba Jr. in a concurring opinion attached to the order.
Mink, who won the Democratic primary on Sept. 21, died of viral pneumonia on Sept. 28, three days after the deadline to replace her name on the ballot.
Hawaii is faced with the possibility of three elections in two months for the 2nd District seat — Nov. 5 with Mink on the ballot, Nov. 30 to fill the rest of her term, and, if Mink wins the first vote, Jan. 4 for the next term.
Yoshina, who is appointed by the governor, said he would not comment on the ruling before talking to the attorney general.
Cayetano said he regrets he won't be able to save taxpayers the cost of two special elections if Mink wins. He estimated the cost at nearly $3 million for two special elections while previous estimates have ranged up to $4 million.
"We're disappointed in the court's ruling but we'll accept it,'' Cayetano said. "We've gone to court to try and save the people time and the expense of holding three possible elections in 60 days and we failed. So now it's up to the chief elections officer.''
Losing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Case and 23 other candidates already have filed to run in the special winner-take-all election to finish Mink's current term.