September 11, 1997

Federal Courts Suspend An Order
That Hawaii Must Hold A Second Vote On Whether To Have A Constitutional Convention

The every-ten-year vote in Hawaii on whether to call a constitutional convention just won't die.  Due to controversy surrounding the 1996 vote (ruled to be a "no" vote by Hawaii's Supreme Court), Federal Judge David Ezra ordered Hawaii to hold the vote again.  Most recently, the second vote was scheduled for Dec. 6, 1997.

Now the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has suspended Judge Ezra's ruling, pending an appeal by the state.  The 9th Circuit Court will hear the state's appeal in January.

Hawaii's Constitution specifies that blank and spoiled ballots are counted as "no" votes when the people vote on constitutional questions (specific amendments and the general call for a convention).  In 1996 this was clear to everyone concerning specific constitutional amendments.  Did it also apply to the call for a constitutional convention?  In 1996 it mattered and after the November 1996 election, Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled on the question definitively.

Judge David Ezra ordered a second vote to be held, on the basis that the voters were not adequately informed PRIOR to the 1996 election about how blank and spoiled ballots would be counted.

When I cast my own ballot, I asked a polling official at my voting place how blank votes counted, and the official said  they counted as "no".  So it is at least arguable that voters were indeed informed that blank ballots counted as "no".  However, shortly after the election, the state's Attorney General opined that blank ballots didn't count at all.  The Attorney General was later overruled by Hawaii's Supreme Court.  Curiously, whatever the confusion after the 1996 election about blank votes, the plaintiffs who brought this issue to Judge Ezra have not been required to show that in fact the voters were confused about their votes WHEN THEY VOTED nor have they been required to show that any confusion would have made a difference in the outcome of the election.

Supporters of same-gender marriage oppose a Constitutional Convention, because a constitutional convention could propose all sorts of mischievous amendments that might over-turn our successful court case (Baehr v. Miike) to win full marriage rights.

                        Best Regards,

                        Tom Ramsey
                        Ex-Officio, Steering Committee of Marriage Project - Hawaii

P.S.  In the meantime, we await Hawaii's Supreme Court final decision on marriage licenses.  In December 1996, the Honolulu Circuit Court ordered marriage licenses issued to same-gender couples and then suspended that decision to give the state a chance to appeal to Hawaii's Supreme Court.  All the paper work and evidence is now with Hawaii's Supreme Court.  The Court has not yet asked for oral arguments, and might not.

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