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Monday, July 28, 2014         

UNDER THE SUN


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Some people in the world are just dying to vote

By Cynthia Oi

POSTED:



Maybe he had a hot brunch date.

Maybe he sensed that halftime of the UH football game on TV was counting down fast.

Or maybe he had to go to the bathroom, which would account for his hopping from one black-rubber-slippered-foot to another behind me at the polling station Saturday.

"Eh, eh," he called to a poll worker, waving his ballot. "I mark this arready. Why I gotta wait?"

The poll guy, faint smile and bland tone suggesting he'd explained the process more than once, said that ballots had to be fed into the counting machine. Good thing, too, he said, because if a voter made an error, the machine would say so and the voter would get a do-over.

"Ainokea," said antsy pants. "If wrong, wrong."

His restlessness was causing a ruckus in the school cafeteria where a couple of dozen other voters -- including two people with canes, one with a walker, two others assisted by younger people -- waited their turn in line.

For the sake of calm, I offered to let him cut in front of me. When the man ahead of me, prompted by an elbow from his teenager daughter, made the same offer, antsy pants got shame.

"No, I wait," he mumbled.

Driving home, I wondered why antsy had made the effort to vote, then didn't seem to care whether his ballot would count.

Still, he deserved credit for fulfilling his civic duty, unlike more than half of the registered voters of these fair islands.

Maybe they had chores, those continual rounds of grocery-shopping, laundry, weeding and lawn-mowing that swamp the weekends.

Maybe their workweeks extended through Saturdays with part-time jobs or backlogs to catch up on in the office.

Or maybe after hard Monday-to-Friday slogs, the greater need was to go beach, play with the kids or just lie down.

But let's give them credit, too; at least they registered.

The reasons not to vote were much different that same Saturday in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, among them, the possibility of dying by grenade, rocket attack, gunfire or beating.

Low turnout was also influenced by the prospect of fraud. Fake registration cards, ballot stuffing, vote buying and other "irregularities," as monitoring organizations bureaucratically describe them, are unremarkable in Afghan elections.

Even after votes are tallied, which won't be complete for another couple of weeks, who won or lost might not make a difference. The country's leaders don't worry much about changing government policy unilaterally or ignoring their constitution when their purposes dictate.

All the same, they should get credit for at least having elections.

A Kaneohe-based Marine, First Lt. Scott J. Fleming from Marietta, Ga., was in Helmand province when he was struck in the neck by small-arms fire and killed. He and his unit were providing security for the parliamentary elections.

That was on Friday, the day before more than half of Hawaii's registered voters didn't go to the polls.

There's something not quite right about that.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at coi@staradvertiser.com.






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