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Election goes smoothly, but voter turnout remains low


Voter turnout in the general election appeared to be at about the same low level as the last gubernatorial election four years ago.

Votes counted as of about 11 p.m. showed turnout at 52 percent — about the same as the 52.7 percent turnout in 2006.

A few thousand votes likely still to be added to the final prinout.

Turnout will fall short of the 2008 presidential election when native son Barack Obama was elected president. Voter turnout was 66 percent in 2008.

Absentee turnout accounted for about 39 percent of Election Day’s vote tally, pending final returns. That’s less than the 44 percent absentee turnout in this year’s primary election, but higher than the 38 percent absentee voter turnout in the 2008 general election.

As of the third printout, which was issued at about 11:10 p.m., 359,093 of 690,748 registered voters had been counted, including 139,101 absentee ballots and 219,992 walk-in ballots.

While there were no serious glitches reported at any of the 242 polling places yesterday, a pair of vehicle crashes brought westbound H-1 freeway traffic to a crawl between Waikele and the airport and prompted the Democratic Party of Hawaii to ask the state Office of Elections to keep polling places in affected areas open an additional hour, to 7 p.m.

The request was not granted.

The Governor’s Office said it was not contacted about keeping polling places open and said the final decision was likely made by the Office of Elections.

Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla explained that polling times can only be extended due to civil emergency, the declaration of which falls under the purview of the state.

The two crashes — one near the Manager’s Drive overpass just after the Waikele offramp, and one near the Kamehameha Highway overpass, just past the H-1/H-2 interchange and before the Waikele offramp — caused significant gridlock.

By 4:30 p.m., westbound traffic was backed up to the airport viaduct on the H-1 side and Fort Shafter on the Moanalua Freeway side.

The added delay meant that some West Oahu residents had no say in one of the most highly anticipated elections in recent memory.

A late crush of voters crowded the Ewa Beach Elementary School polling station in the final hour before closing, prompting precinct Chairwoman Doris Boushey to contact the state’s voting command center to request permission to keep the station open to accommodate late-arriving voters.

"We didn’t get it, so we had to close at 6 p.m.," Boushey said. "It was really hard to turn away people who had been stuck in traffic."

Volunteer Peter Wokoun Jr. said he had to turn away about 30 cars in the first five minutes after the site closed.

At Hokulani Elementary School, at the base of St. Louis Heights, turnout was slow but steady.

Precinct Chairwoman Marty Moriguchi estimated that about half of the precinct’s voters had already cast absentee ballots by midafternoon.

Moriguchi said about two dozen voters showed up at the wrong polling place and were redirected. About eight or nine people who had voted at Hokulani in previous elections were directed to their new polling place at Kuhio School. The change was part of a consolidation of polling places to save money this year.

Cuauhtemoc Macias, 39, said he was voting for the first time because he felt the election was close and his vote could matter.

Macias voted for Democratic candidates. "I voted this time because I think people are a little bit disenchanted with the Democrats, and I don’t think it’s their fault," he said.

Ryan Edge, 20, considers himself an independent but voted Republican for governor and Congress. His main issues are education and federal spending.

"I agree with his (Aiona’s) policies more than Neil Abercrombie," Edge said.

When the polls opened yesterday morning, dozens were lined up at Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki, said precinct Chairman Jeffrey Keating. For the most part, polling places around Hawaii opened on time with precincts across the state reporting "normal start-up issues," Quidilla said.

"Normal for us means that maybe one (precinct) falls short and shifts (poll workers) from nearby. Polls open and voting starts," he said.

There was a minor problem with the ballot counting machine at Leilehua High School, Quidilla said. "But that was quickly fixed."

Another minor problem occurred because the ballot counting machines at Waipahu Elementary School and August Ahrens Elementary School were switched, he added.

More than two dozen voters were in line outside Manoa Elementary School cafeteria when workers opened the doors at 7 a.m., and architect John Vann was first in line.

Vann, 39, spent only 10 minutes in the voting booth.

"I used my best judgment," he said afterward, commenting on the charter and constitutional amendments. But "there was a lack of press on the amendments other than the school board," he said. "It is an injustice to the people not to have the press discuss all the issues."

Waikiki residents Seraphin and Irene Sanchez, both retired teachers, chose to vote by absentee ballot because of the number of detailed City Charter and state constitutional amendments. Irene Sanchez, 68, admitted after reading her husband’s ballot before the couple dropped it off at Jefferson Elementary School that she forget to flip her ballot over and mailed it without voting for any candidates on the other side.

Star-Advertiser reporters Gregg Kakesako, Craig Gima, Dan Nakaso and Michael Tsai contributed to this report.
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