ACLU Sues to Invalidate Ballot Amendment
November 22, 2004
Honolulu - The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (ACLU) filed a lawsuit today to invalidate a ballot measure to change the State Constitution, which passed in the general election, and criticized the legislature for failing to follow the mandatory requirements when proposing amendments.
"The State Constitution protects fundamental rights which affect every individual. Checks and balances are in place to ensure that the state legislature cannot rush through measures without giving the public ample notice and opportunity to weigh in. In this case, those protections were ignored," said lead plaintiff Patrick Taomae.
Filed in the State Supreme Court on behalf of thirty-eight registered voters, the ACLU wants to stop Constitutional Amendment Question 1 from becoming part of the Hawaii Constitution. The amendment would alter due process protections for individuals accused of sexual assault against a minor by allowing juries to convict without a unanimous agreement on when the assaults occurred.
"Constantly tinkering with the State Constitution to overturn court decisions that preserve fundamental rights is dangerous. A sad trend has emerged in Hawai'i where our Constitution has become a target for diminishing rights rather than a beacon for protecting them," said cooperating attorney Earle A. Partington.
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.
Question 1 would overturn a state Supreme Court decision last year that held that where a defendant is charged with multiple acts of sexual assault against a minor, the jury had to be unanimous as to at least three of the occasions in order to convict the defendant. Question 1 would erode long-established 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 are asking the Court to make it clear what is permitted when amendments to our Constitution are proposed so that, in the future, the public will have fair notice of legislative proposals which could significantly affect them."
Today's lawsuit follows one filed by the ACLU in October on behalf of eight registered voters to stop Question 1 from going forward in the general election.
The ACLU won a similar legal challenge to the information charging constitutional amendment that was on the ballot in 2002. That amendment was subsequently re-introduced in the 2004 legislature and ultimately placed on the ballot and passed in the general election.
The mission of the ACLU is to defend the civil liberties enshrined in the state and federal constitutions through its litigation, legislative and public education programs statewide.
ACLU Files Election Lawsuit To Stop Ballot Amendment
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