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U.S. Senator Brian Emanuel Schatz (D-HI), who replaced the late Senator Daniel Inouye, stands with his wife Linda while Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office during the re-enactment of his swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3BXO7
Appointed Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz holds a narrow lead in his primary, as two precincts going to the polls in a very unusual race.
It's election day ... again! Because of the damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, two precincts in Hawaii County (the Big Island) in the Puna region did not open when the rest of the state held its primary on Aug. 9. The vote in both districts will be today, Friday Aug. 15. With Sen. Brian Schatz holding a 1,635 vote lead over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary, the 8,255 or so voters in these two precincts will be closely watched.

However, it's very unlikely Hanabusa can gain enough out of both precincts to take the lead. As we've noted in the past, the math is incredibly daunting: Even if there were 100 percent turnout in both precincts (which of course won't happen), Hanabusa would need to win by about 60-40 to narrowly pull ahead. The surrounding precincts favored Schatz, and it's very unlikely that these two areas are deep pockets of pro-Hanabusa support. Furthermore, while turnout may be higher than usual due to these unusual circumstances, it's a lot to assume that it will reach sky-high levels since much of the area is still recovering from the storm.

Assuming Schatz keeps his narrow lead as expected, it's unclear what will happen next. As Civil Beat (which has been a great resource throughout this whole race) has noted, Hawaii does not have any automatic recount even for very close races. However:

But “any candidate, or qualified political party directly interested, or any thirty voters of any election district” can file a complaint in the Hawaii Supreme Court. The complaint would have to provide cause “such as but not limited to, provable fraud, overages, or underages, that could cause a difference in the election results.”

The law adds, “The complaint shall also set forth any reasons for reversing, correcting, or changing the decisions of the precinct officials or the officials at a counting center in an election using the electronic voting system.”

We'll see what happens after all the votes are counted. Hanabusa has cited irregularities in the vote and argued that voters in open precincts were unable to vote on Saturday because of the storm. However, her complaint didn't get very far in court this week, and it's hard to see anything actually putting Schatz's victory in doubt if he keeps his lead after Friday's vote.

In any case, we'll find out soon. Polls close Friday at 6 PM local time (12 AM ET), and we'll be liveblogging the results, as well as any major developments in this race throughout the weekend, at Daily Kos Elections. Whoever eventually claims the Democratic nomination should have no problem prevailing in the general election in this heavily blue state. The winner will fill the rest of the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye's term, and will be up for re-election in 2016.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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