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Absentee ballot trend complicates campaigning

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For those of you who are voters, 44 percent of you are golden.

You are the absentee voters. There are more of you every year.

This year, a total of 129,824 votes cast during the primary election were absentee votes.

In the 2008 primary, absentee voters were just 38 percent and in 2006 they were 37 percent of the primary tally.

The last really pivotal state election was 2002, when Gov. Linda Lingle won her first statewide race; then, the absentee voters comprised 25 percent of the vote.

Oahu voters appeared to have the largest percentage of absentee voters, at 45 percent.

Observers note that the Honolulu city clerk took the extra step this year of mailing out to all registered voters an application for permanent absentee voter status.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you are gone forever; it means that because of a new state law you designate yourself as someone who is mailed a ballot and you are spared the trudge down to your precinct poll on election day.

And if you relish the chance to talk story with your neighbors on election day, you can still vote in person; just take your absentee ballot down to your precinct and drop it off there.

The interesting political note for all this absentee activity is that it is driving Hawaii politicians nuts.

Absentee ballots should have started arriving in mailboxes this week. For all practical purposes that means that election day is not Nov. 2, it is the day you sit down and mark your ballot.

Timing an election campaign just got a lot more complex.

Supporters of Republican Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona say a vote for him now is a vote in the bank.

Democrat Neil Abercrombie’s supporters know that an absentee vote for their guy means once you drop the ballot in the mail you can’t change your mind.

To get that vote deposited now into the Democrat’s account, Abercrombie has been mailing out brochures to all registered absentee voters.

Although in the primary election Abercrombie chided campaigners who flooded mailboxes with expensive and usually tossed, unread campaign pamphlets, now he recognizes the need to give voters "something to hold in their hands."

It is a sure signal that Abercrombie is willing to spend to get those absentee voters.

Aiona’s campaign is less forthcoming about its election plans, and just notes that it has to campaign in both the absentee election and on election day.

There are no predictions as to how high absentee voting will go or if this year is just a bit more interesting.

We still didn’t even hit 50 percent for total turnout, but big absentee numbers add a little more interest and frenzy to the campaign’s last two weeks.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at


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