Oahu Circuit Court Judge Karen Nakasone ruled this morning that she doesn’t have the authority to determine whether or not state Rep. Calvin Say is qualified to represent House District 20. The district includes Palolo, Kaimuki and St. Louis Heights.

The ruling came in response to a petition filed by six District 20 voters, some of them affiliated with the Green Party of Hawaii, who allege Say lives in Pauoa Valley — not Palolo Valley. Say’s residency has been challenged on multiple occasions in recent years, but today’s hearing marked the first time a challenge has been brought through the court.

The plaintiffs, represented by Maui attorney Lance Collins, late last year filed a petition calling into question Say’s right to hold office. If Nakasone had ruled in favor of the petition, Say would’ve needed to prove his Palolo Valley residency in a subsequent hearing.

But Nakasone instead granted Say his motion to dismiss the petition, concluding that her court doesn’t have jurisdiction over Say’s residency and eligibility to represent the district. That authority lies with the city clerk, who oversees voter registration, she said.

Hawaii law states that someone can represent a district if he or she is a registered voter in that district.

Collins argues voter registration doesn’t translate into residency and that residency is a prerequisite for holding office.

The plaintiffs say it’s clear Say doesn’t live in the Palolo home, located on 10th Avenue. Two plaintiffs said they drive by the house everyday. Very rarely is anyone home, they said.

They also pointed out that Say’s wife and children are registered to vote in Pauoa.

Roughly 11 people, including the plaintiffs and other community members — among them former District 20 Green Party candidate Keiko Bonk — attended today’s hearing in support of the petition. Some said that, though they were surprised by the ruling, they aren’t giving up. 

Collins plans to appeal.

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— Alia Wong