comscore However you do it, the main thing is to just go and vote | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | On Politics

However you do it, the main thing is to just go and vote


As you may have heard, there is an election Tuesday, so I’d like to tell you how to vote.

No, not whom to vote for; that’s for you and why we have elections.

But I would like to give you a tip or two about how to get the most bang for your vote, how to make it more effective.


The really akamai old-timers — like former appellate judge, state and territorial legislator and City Councilman Walter Heen — recall plunking as a powerful political weapon.

"We learned from little kid time, plunk," said Heen, who is running for re-election as a trustee to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Plunking means to vote for just one candidate in a multiple-candidate race, such as a school board or OHA race where you can vote for more than one candidate.

"If you are only interested in one candidate, you are giving him a vote, but you are depriving the others of a vote, so your candidate actually jumps up by two votes," Heen said.

Hawaiian voters, Heen said, were masters of the plunk vote.

"You might have just one Hawaiian running in a three- or four-seat race. All the Hawaiians knew that if you gave your Hawaiian a vote and the others were deprived of a vote, you were a step ahead," Heen said.

Today plunking is a nearly lost art because most elections are for single-member seats in the state Legislature or county council. But back in 1978, Hawaii had multi-member districts and we plunked with a vengeance. The state’s Office of Elections ran a plunk analysis measuring each candidate’s plunk votes.

Some familiar names show up as plunk-vote winners. For instance back in 1978, Neil Abercrombie got the most plunk votes, 43 percent, in a Manoa Senate race. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano picked up the majority of the plunk votes in his Senate race.

Former teachers union leader and now lobbyist John Radcliffe advises plunking.

"I’ve been telling people the safest thing is to vote just for the candidate you want, don’t vote for all three," Radcliffe says.

Now, what if you look at a school board or OHA ballot and you just can’t stand one candidate — is there a way to block that one candidate?

That becomes something like algebra, which means it is way over the mental capacity of a journalist. So I asked Dr. Tom Ramsey, chairman of the University of Hawaii-Manoa math department. He just updated a paper entitled, "Is there life beyond the solar system?" So Hawaii politics should be easy.

Ramsey said there are two ways to get the person you don’t want out of the race.

First, cast all your ballots. You can vote for the most popular candidates, who are not the ones you want to lose; or if you aren’t sure who is most popular, just vote for any candidate except the one you want out.

And of course, on Tuesday, just vote.

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


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