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Hawaii sinks to record low voter turnout

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    Primary election voters at District 35, Precinct 3, cast their ballots at the Waipahu Intermediate School polling station today.


    People arrived early to vote at Manoa Elementary School.


    Robin Leong was the among the early morning voters at Manoa Elementary School.


    Precinct worker Jo Ann Yamazaki, left, helps voter Delmond Won with instructions at Manoa Elementary School.

Update 12:10 p.m.:

With the final results of the night released, it’s official: Hawaii set a record low for voter apathy in a primary election on Saturday, when only 34.7 percent of registered voters bothered to cast ballots. In all, 251,959 people voted. The previous low for a primary election was set in 2008, when 36.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Some 246,070 people voted in the 2008 primary.

Update 10:38 p.m.:

Hawaii is on pace tonight to set a record for voter apathy in a primary election, with only 31.4 percent of registered voters bothering to cast ballots. In all, 228,017 people voted. The previous low for a primary election was set in 2008, when 36.9 percent of registered voters — or 246,070 people — cast ballots.

Update 7 p.m.: Only eight polls on Oahu remain open one hour after the scheduled poll closing time, election officials said. They plan to release the first early results of the evening after the last poll closes.

Update 6:45 p.m.: State election officials said 18 polling sites on Oahu and Hawaii island remained open about 40 minutes after the scheduled 6 p.m. closing time. The last polls are expected to close at 7 p.m. and the first printout of returns should be released around 7:30 p.m.

All of the polling sites on Kauai and Maui were closed.

The first printout is expected to include 109,000 mail-in and walk-in ballots.

Previous coverage

Voter turnout was running behind the 2014 primary election based on a sampling of the state’s 233 polling places and the number of people who took advantage of absentee and early walk-in voting, according to a state election official.

The state elections office projected that voter turnout was 27 percent as of 3 p.m., compared with 33 percent at the same time in the 2014 primary, according to spokeswoman Nedielyn Bueno. In the 2014 primary election, only 41.5 percent of the state’s 697,033 registered voters cast a ballot.

On Maui, County Clerk Danny Matteo was hoping that voting would pick up in the afternoon.

Kauai County Clerk Lyndon Yoshioka said based on the number of calls to the Lihue election control center, “it’s quiet here. Things are running smoothly.”

The state’s 233 polling places from Hanalei on Kauai to South Point on the Big Island opened without any major problems, according to Bueno. No major problems were reported by the state elections office.

Bueno said there was a problem with a paper ballot scanner just before the polls opened at 7 a.m. at Maunawili Elementary School. A troubleshooter was dispatched and a replacement machine put into operation, she said.

Some 19,215 of the state’s 726,9401 registered voters had cast ballots by the close of business Thursday when early walk-in and absentee voting.

On Oahu that means 9,928 of the city’s 483,076 registered voters have cast their ballots, according to the elections office, down from about 10,500 in 2014.

For the neighbor islands, state elections officials reported that 4,838 of the Big Island’s 109,690 registered voters have voted; 2,101 of Maui County’s 91,139 registered voters have cast their ballots; and 2,348 of the Garden Island’s 43,036 registered voters have taken advantage of early walk-in and mail-in voting.

Among the two dozen voters at Manoa Elementary School this morning were attorney Robin Leong and a medical technician Cory Yutaka, who had to wait about 15 minutes to vote.

Robyn Loudermilk, who is running the Manoa precinct voting operation for the first time, said she could have used another three to five precinct workers.

“We try our best,” said Loudermilk, noting there were about 10 people working at the Manoa precinct who are paid $85 for a shift that could run more than 12 hours. “We have a couple of old-timers who really help the newcomers in coming up with the best way to keep the flow of voters going.”

On Maui, County Clerk Matteo said this morning that his office was still trying to hire precinct workers.

“We have 500 now,” Matteo said, “Fully manned, we should have 600. I think it is a problem statewide.

Keone Anderson, who moved to Manoa from Waikiki more than a year ago, ran into a small problem even after reporting an address change online: her name was not listed on the pollbooks at the Manoa precinct. However, Anderson was issued a provisional ballot and allowed to vote.

Yutaka, who has been the first to vote at Manoa school during the last three elections, said, “It is very important to vote. There is a lot of power in voting.”

Leong, 60, a lifelong Manoa resident, added, “I have voted here since I was 18.”

Leong, however, will only use paper ballots. “I don’t trust electronic voting,” Leong said. “I believe in paper ballots.”

Leong predicted a spirited race between Democratic incumbent Isaac Choy and newcomer Dale Kobayashi in today’s Democratic state House primary.

There are 16 uncontested races in the state Senate and House, and all but one of the unopposed candidates are Democrats.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. but elections officials say anyone in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Polling places are listed on the state elections office website,

In the 2014 primary election Tropical Storm Iselle forced the closure of two voting precincts in Puna which resulted in voting extended for six additional days.

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  • “The state elections office projected that a voter turnout of was 22 percent …” What kind of language is that? The Kauai County Clerk said “it’s quite here. Things are running smoothly.” Quite? Not quiet? I just stopped reading after that. How embarrassing that our only major newspaper contains such basic errors!

  • Low voter turnout is why we got stuck with Republican Fukumoto Chang here in Mililani. Many hope our Marilyn Lee will make a comeback. We’ll know tonight if the wins the primary against a newbie.

  • Do you remember 1987 ?

    I had forgotten about all of this. Makes this an important point for those who try to blame everything on Bush.
    Do you remember 1987 when the Senators were giving Ollie North such a bad time? This brings it all into perspective. I thought you might be interested in this forgotten bit of information.

    It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they were playing an old news video of Lt. Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings during the Reagan Administration. There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning!

    He was being drilled by a senator, “did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?”

    Ollie replied, “yes Sir, I did”.

    The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience,

    “Isn’t that just a little excessive?”

    “No sir” continued Ollie.

    “No, and why not?” the senator asked.

    “Because the lives of my family and I were
    threatened sir”.

    “Threatened? By whom?” the senator questioned.

    “By a Muslim terrorist sir”. Ollie answer.

    “Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you
    that much?”

    “His name is Osama bin Laden, sir”, Ollie replied.

    At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn’t pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn’t. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued. “Why are you so afraid of this man?”, the senator asked.

    “Because sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of”, Ollie answered, “And the Muslims are trying to take over America and destroy it from the inside out and putting their people into our political offices.

    “And what do you recommend we do about him?”, asked the senator.

    “Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth.”

    The senator disagreed with this approach, and that was all that was shown of the clip. By the way, that
    senator was Al Gore! Also: Terrorist pilot Mohammad Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him. As part of the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians in 1993, Israel had to agree to release so-called, “political prisoners”. However, the Israelis would not release any with blood on their hands.

    The American President at the time, Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, insisted that all prisoners be released. Thus Mohammad Atta was freed and eventually thanked us by flying an airplane into Tower One of the World Trade Center. This was reported by many of the American TV networks at the time that the terrorists were first identified. It was censored in the US from all, pass this on!

    • Hmmm…what do you say about this?

      Did the Bush administration push to pull our attention out of Bora Bora, away from Bin Laden, and instead focus our attention on an invasion of Iraq? Were Bush and Cheney so short-sighted to think that we could just go in, kick ass, get out and life would go on? Yes, they were. That happened under Bush. His vision, his game plan, his mess. Moving forward on faulty information that none of the other intelligence agencies supported. He blew it. Try presenting something factual next time. Maybe that will lend more credence to your “it ain’t Bush’ fault” cause.

  • Just how they like it, low turn out consisting mostly of party loyalists. Our corrupt legislators refuse to consider adopting mail in voting as other states have done to save money and increase voter participation because they fear the potential loss of power. Much like asking them to vote for term limits for themselves, never happen.

    • We have mail in voting don’t we? Actually Hawaii has one of the easiest voting systems in the nation. What the country and the state needs is public financing of elections. This would increase competition. Sadly though this would need to be approved by the same people who have already mastered an inferior system.

  • Apathy, lack of choices, feeling of powerlessness in a State that is controlled by special interests and one party. Small wonder turnout is so poor. We need some heros to come in an rescue us.

  • I always exercise my right to vote, although lately I have been leaving some races blank. Most people, (not all) go into politics because the have no skill set of worth to offer in the real world. It explains why so many lawyers enter politics, no STEM skills.

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