City Council candidate Tommy Waters and a group of 30 East Honolulu voters separately filed complaints with the Hawaii Supreme Court Monday contesting the District 4 council race that ended with incumbent Councilman Trevor Ozawa beating Waters by just 22 votes.  

Both complaints request hand recounts of the nearly 40,000 ballots cast in the district and argue some ballots are invalid.

Former state Rep. Matt Lopresti also filed a complaint with the court asking for a hand recount of all the ballots cast in state Senate District 19, which covers Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point and Ewa Gentry. He lost by 116 votes. 

City Council District IV seat. Tommy Waters (right) and Natalie Iwasa in Honolulu, Hawaii. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo by Ronen Zilberman

Honolulu City Council candidate Tommy Waters and a group led by his supporter, Natalie Iwasa, left, filed separate complaints Monday that election officials mishandled late-arriving ballots and that Waters’ 22-vote losing margin is within the margin of error for ballot-counting machines.

Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

Hawaii law allows any candidate, involved political party or any group of 30 voters from a district to file a complaint requesting a recount. The complaint must show cause that warrants a recount.

Waters, who could not be reached for comment Monday, argues in his complaint that Hawaii Chief Election Officer Scott Nago and Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi mishandled ballots that arrived late on election night.

Election results published late on Nov. 6 showed Waters ahead of Ozawa by a 72 of votes for the District 4 council seat, but additional ballots counted early the following day put Ozawa narrowly ahead.

He also argued 22 votes are within the margin of error for the machines that count ballots, justifying a recount.  

Ozawa said in a text message that he has full confidence in the state Office of Elections.

Unlike some states, Hawaii law does not mandate recounts for close races. The Legislature repealed a recount law in 1973 after lawmakers determined only courts can decide on contested elections, Office of Elections spokeswoman Nedielyn Bueno wrote in an email.

Waters sought a recount in 2014 when he lost to Ozawa by 41 votes for the same seat, but the court unanimously rejected his request.

The group that filed a separate complaint against the District 4 results is led by Hawaii Kai community advocate Natalie Iwasa, who ran against Waters and Ozawa in the primary and supported Waters in the general election.

Iwasa also questioned how the state Office of Elections handled the final ballots that came in after midnight the night of the election.

She started the Facebook group Every Vote Matters Hawaii and an online petition calling on the elections office to recount by hand all of the ballots cast for District 4. More than 200 people had signed the petition as of Monday afternoon.

Rep Matt Lopresti during HECO intervenor presser at the Capitol. 19 july 2016

Former State Rep. Matt LoPresti is contesting the 2018 general election results.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I think there’s room for explanation here that needs to get out,” said Clifton Hasegawa, who lives on Maui but signed the petition. “I don’t care who wins, I want to know that the process is pure.”

In the race for state Senate District 19, Kurt Fevella beat LoPresti by 116 votes, or 0.9 percent of the total turnout.

LoPresti’s complaint alleges that poll workers at the Ilima Intermediate School polling place tampered with ballots. LoPresti writes in the complaint that he was told about the alleged tampering by the precinct captain at the polling place and other elections officials, who were not named in the complaint.

LoPresti alleges that Michele Golojuch, an LGBT activist, was one of the poll workers who participated in manipulating ballots.

Golojuch couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

LoPresti also argues that if the reasons he outlines in the complaint aren’t enough to compel an investigation and recount, then the entire elections law should be deemed unconstitutional by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Read the complaints below:


Lopresti v Nago (Text)



Waters Complaint (Text)

Now is the time to support our nonprofit newsroom

Civil Beat focuses exclusively on the kind of journalism most at risk of disappearing – in-depth, investigative and enterprise coverage of important local issues. While producing this type of journalism isn’t cheap, you won’t find our content hidden behind a paywall. We also never worry about upsetting advertisers – because we don’t allow any. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on donations from readers like you to help keep our stories free and accessible to everyone. If you value our journalism, show us with your support.

About the Authors