Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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Keep safe and cast ballots early, party officials say

Walk-in voting appears to be up on several islands as stormy weather nears

By B.J. Reyes


Party leaders urged residents to take advantage of early voting this week as storm preparations continue for tropical weather systems headed toward the islands ahead of Saturday's primary election.

Election officials also urged residents to vote either by mail or in person before the walk-in sites close at the end of the day Thursday.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a tropical storm watch for Hawaii island and a flash flood watch for the entire state beginning Thursday, when the effects from Hurricane Iselle are expected to hit. Behind Iselle, Tropical Storm Julio strengthened slightly and could become a hurricane Wednesday.

In a news release Tuesday, the chairwomen of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and the Hawaii Republican Party issued a joint call for voters to cast ballots early.

"At times like this, when lives and property may be in danger, we aren't Republicans or Democrats, we're ohana. By voting early, before Saturday's primary election, voters can stay safe and still cast their ballot for the candidates of their choice," GOP Chairwoman Pat Saiki said in a statement.

Stephanie Ohigashi, state Democratic Party chairwoman, echoed that sentiment, calling voting a "sacred right" that should not be denied any voter for any reason. "And we don't want anyone to have to choose between voting and staying safe," she added. "I'm urging all voters, Democrats and Republicans, to vote early."

On Hawaii island, where the effects from Iselle were first expected to hit by Thursday, more residents were calling to find out about early voting sites, said Pat Nakamoto, Hawaii County elections administrator.

"We have been receiving telephone calls from voters who are wanting to know in their community where they can go and early vote because of the storm," she said. "So there seems to be some of the voters who are preparing to get their vote in early and not wait."

She said so far, 3,347 people had cast early walk-in votes. There were about 5,700 walk-in votes in the 2012 primary. As of Monday, the county had received 13,335 mail-in votes returned out of the 23,101 that were mailed out.

On Kauai, Lyndon Yoshioka, elections administrator, said he did not have walk-in numbers from 2012, but he sensed that walk-in voting was up.

"We have been encouraging voters to early vote just in case," he said. "We don't have any word as far as what might happen on Saturday, so whoever calls, we are encouraging them to early vote, just in case."

He said the county had tallied 1,740 walk-in voters as of Tuesday afternoon. As of Monday, the county had received 5,886 mailed-in ballots out of the 9,506 that had been mailed.

On Maui, Shirley Magarifuji, elections administrator, said the walk-in total as of Mondaywas 1,101 and she did not have walk-in voting figures in 2012. The county had received 9,931 of the 18,924 ballots that were mailed out, she said.

And in Honolulu, elections administrator Glen Takahashi said walk-in voting appeared to be busier Tuesday than on past days.

"I don't know if it's because of the final four days of voting, or the fact that the storm message is getting out," he said. "It was a little bit busier today than the last few."

As of Tuesday, the walk-in tally was 9,170, which Takahashi said was "about a few hundred" more than were received after the same amount of time in the 2012 primary. Meanwhile, about 75,000 ballots of the 117,000 that were mailed out had been received.

Walk-in voting for the primary runs through Thursday.

More information on early walk-in voting and polling places is available online at the state Office of Elections website:

Among those taking advantage of early voting was gubernatorial candidate state Sen. David Ige and his family, who voted Tuesday at Honolulu Hale, in part because of the approaching storms.

"We have been monitoring and that was one of the concerns," Ige said. "We thought it would be better for us to take care of the voting early rather than wait until Election Day."

Ige said that as a precaution, he has advised his coordinators on Hawaii island and Maui to suspend campaigning if necessary to prepare for the storms and take care of their families. Ige said he still plans to attend the traditional election eve Democratic rally in Hilo on Friday.

Ige's son, Matthew, a student at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, cast his first ballot on Tuesday.

"I think it's really great that my first time is in support of his first statewide election," Matthew Ige said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, meanwhile, held a rally for a few hundred supporters on Tuesday evening on the lawn outside the Blaisdell Center.

An energetic Abercrombie, who said he had been in close elections before, urged supporters to help get out the vote. Public and private polls have shown the governor trailing Ige by double digits in the Democratic primary.

"I've spent my whole life dealing with people who were telling me why we could not succeed," Abercrombie said. "And I've told them over and over and over again, it's not about me. The campaign is all about you. Everyone understands that we are in a position today to be able to carry Hawaii forward in a way that could not even have been contemplated four years ago.

"And it's because of you."


Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.

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