A 1st Circuit Court of Hawaii judge ruled Monday that state Sen. Laura Thielen properly filed her nomination papers for re-election this year.

The court rejected a lawsuit from Fritz Rohlfing, chair of the Hawaii Republican Party, who argued that Thielen’s paperwork was incomplete and thus disqualified her.

State law requires the state Office of Elections to verify registered voters by name, date of birth, address and Social Security number.

Rohlfing alleged that the names of three signatories for Thielen’s candidacy did not match the names of actual registered voters.

Chair Commitee on Water and Land Laura Thielen questions DLNR chair nominee Carleton Ching on second day of hearing. 12 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
State Sen. Laura Thielen. 

Fifteen verified signatures are required for nomination papers; 17 signatures were initially verified for Thielen, but Rohlfing said the actually count should be 14, thus making her ineligible to run.

Judge Jeannette Castagnetti determined state law does not penalize voters who print a reasonable variation of their legal names such as using a middle initial instead of a full name.

It’s notable that the judge’s order detailed how Mr. Rohlfing’s complaint was not filed in accordance with court rules, that the ‘return of service’ was not filed properly, that Rohlfing misspelled one of the nominating parties’ names in his complaint, and that he failed to timely correct his errors with the court,” said Thielen. “The irony would be funny, but for the fact that Mr. Rohlfing is attempting to disenfranchise voters and is wasting the court’s time on frivolous charges.”

Asked for his response to the court ruling, Rohlfing issued this statement:

We have reviewed the 16-page Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order entered by the First Circuit Court this afternoon and we greatly appreciate the expeditious manner in which the Court considered our objection to Senator Thielen’s nomination papers.

We are disappointed with the Court’s ruling that candidates for public office may be nominated by people who do not clearly identify themselves in the manner prescribed by the nomination form.

The Court ruling permits the Office of Elections to exercise its discretion in confirming the nomination of candidates even when citizens who nominate the prospective candidate fail to clearly identify themselves so there can be a quick confirmation of their status as qualified registered voters.

As Chief Elections Officer’s Scott Nago testified in his sworn statement to the Court as part of this proceeding, he believes the format of the nomination form his office prescribes for the printing of the voter’s name “is not a mandatory format and is merely a suggestion.”

We believe the Court’s ruling makes our candidate nomination process less certain and vests too much discretion in the Office of Elections.

Thielen, a Democrat representing a district that runs from Kailua to Hawaii Kai on Oahu, will face the winner of the Republican primary that features two candidates.

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