ACLU Files Election Lawsuit To Stop Ballot Amendment
October 15, 2004
Honolulu - The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a lawsuit today on behalf of eight registered voters to stop a ballot amendment from going forward in the general election. Filed in Circuit Court against Governor Linda Lingle and Chief Elections officer Dwayne Yoshina, the lawsuit asks the court to stop the placement of Constitutional Amendment Question 1 on the general election ballot because the legislature failed to follow procedures required of a constitutional amendment before the electorate votes.
"Because the State Constitution represents the core of our democracy, procedures to amend it must be followed strictly. The legislature failed to do this. As a result of their attempt to short-cut this process, Constitutional Amendment Question 1 is invalid," said Earle A. Partington, cooperating attorney with the ACLU.
Proposed amendments are required to pass three readings in each chamber before being sent to the Governor. Question 1 started out as a bill in the House and only became a proposed constitutional amendment after it reached the Senate.
Lead plaintiff Patrick Taomae added, "I expect the Legislature to do the peoplešs work by making sure that any changes to our state Constitution are necessary, carefully considered and done correctly."
Question 1 would overturn a 2003 decision of the state Supreme Court, which held that where a defendant is charged with multiple acts of sexual assault against a minor, the jury must be unanimous as to at least three of the occasions in order to convict the defendant. Question 1, if passed, would erode fundamental rights of the accused by eliminating the requirement that a jury be unanimous before an individual can be convicted.
Legal Director, Lois K. Perrin added, "we want to ensure that constitutional requirements for an amendment are scrupulously followed. The electorate has the right to know from the very beginning that fundamental changes to our constitution are being proposed."
The lawsuit is the second one of its kind in two years. The ACLU won its challenge to the information charging constitutional amendment that was on the ballot in 2002 on similar procedural grounds.
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