On March 27, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the petition-checking procedures used in 2004 for independent presidential petitions are legal. Peroutka v Cronin, no. 27233. Here is the decision.
The decision is somewhat maddening. Plaintiffs (Michael Peroutka, Constitution Party presidential candidate, and Ralph Nader, independent presidential candidate) had complained that even though the petition requires signers to list their birthdates, the state won’t use the birthdate information to help them find a voter on the rolls. The Court simply said that Hawaii regulations do not require elections officials to use the birthdate.
Plaintiffs had complained that when a signer has bad handwriting, the state simply refused to try to decipher that handwriting. The Court merely quoted the regulations, which say that elections officials “may” disregard signatures with bad handwriting.
Plaintiffs had argued that the same person who is in charge of checking signatures, is also the person who is in charge of hearing an appeal of his own work. The Court merely said there is nothing illegal about that.
The decision is devoid of any discussion of voting rights, or constitutionality. The parallel federal court case over these same issues is still alive, and the federal court is free to issue its own ruling and to disagree with the State Supreme Court. In a parallel situation, the Michigan Supreme Court had ruled on November 21, 2007, that a Michigan state law giving the list of presidential primary voters only to the two major parties is constitutional. That did not stop a U.S. District Court from coming to the opposite conclusion on March 26, 2008.