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Council candidate accused of voter fraud

Eight people gathered Wednesday at the State Building in Hilo to announce they will request the state Attorney General’s Office investigate alleged voting and tax irregularities by Tiffany Edwards Hunt, who is running for the County Council District 5 seat.

The group included Roxanne Lawson, former Democratic Party precinct chairwoman for District 4, District 5 council candidate RJ Hampton and her campaign manager, Sativa Sultan.

They allege Edwards Hunt committed voter fraud by using the address of her husband’s surf shop in Pahoa on her voter registration form in the 2010 and 2012 elections rather than her home in Hawaiian Acres. They also request the office look into a homeowner’s tax exemption Edwards Hunt received for a house in Hilo while she lived in Hawaiian Acres.

“We believe politicians are obligated to follow the same laws as their constituency,” Lawson said.

Meanwhile, County Clerk Stewart Maeda said he will forward voter fraud complaints against Edwards Hunt to the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Maeda said he received complaints from Frankie Stapleton and Sultan.

He said he could not investigate the complaint himself, or assess its merits, since the allegations have to do with previous elections.

“But because there were possible criminal violations, we are going to refer it to the Prosecutor’s Office,” Maeda said.

Knowingly falsifying voter registration information is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine, or both.

Maeda also last week said he could not investigate a complaint from Sultan alleging Edwards Hunt can’t run in the Puna mauka election because she receives the tax break for the Hilo home since the deadline for candidate challenges passed. Owners must live in a residence for at least 200 days a year to receive the homeowner’s exemption, and Sultan questioned whether that makes her a Hilo resident.

In a statement, Edwards Hunt called the complaints a distraction.

“While I support every citizen’s right to petition the government, I’m confident that the AG will find no merit to this latest challenge,” she said.

According to the county’s election records, Edwards Hunt listed the surf shop at 15-2883 Pahoa Village Road as her voting address from Nov. 24, 2008, until Sept. 26, 2013. She listed a post office box as her mailing address.

In the 2012 election, her home on Wao Kele Road was in Council District 5, while the surf shop was in Council District 4.

In the 2010 election, Edwards Hunt’s home was in Council District 6, while the surf shop was in Council District 5.

District boundaries changed for the 2012 election following redistricting. They remain the same for this year’s election.

Edwards Hunt changed her voting address to her Hawaiian Acres home in September 2013.

That home was previously her voting address from March 2008 until Nov. 24, 2008.

Before that, she used the address for a house she owns on Kaikuono Street in Hilo for voting.

In an interview last week regarding Sultan’s previous complaint, Edwards Hunt said she lived in Hawaiian Acres since about 2006.

County tax records show she received a homeowner’s tax exemption for the Hilo house since 2004.

Edwards Hunt said she wasn’t aware the exemption was still in effect until she received a letter from the county asking for the status to be clarified.

Edwards Hunt removed the exemption, which takes effect next year. She said she didn’t think she owed the county tax revenue, and claimed she met the qualifications “at times” since moving to Hawaiian Acres.

That house is used as a rental and is listed for sale.

Stephens Media Hawaii reporter Nancy Cook Lauer contributed to this report.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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