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Turnout sinks to record low

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    The absentee ballot team counted ballots Saturday at the state Capitol. The state says 9,928 of Oahu’s 483,076 registered voters had voted before Saturday.


    Miles Philips of Hart InterCivic loaded a handful of ballots for counting in the ballot scanner Saturday in the state Capitol. Hart InterCivic provided the voting system for Hawaii’s election. By the close of business Thursday, 19,215 of the state’s 726,941 registered voters had voted through early walk-in and absentee voting.


    Voters Matio Suliven, left, and Elsie Akiyama checked in with District 35, Precinct 3, chairman Avery Ganton at the Waipahu Intermediate School polling station Saturday. “I almost forgot to vote,” said Akiyama, who realized it was the primary election as she passed by the polling station during her daily walk.

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 Hawaii primary election was set in 2008, when 36.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Some 246,070 people voted in that primary.

“Hawaii is a low-turnout state, one of the lowest in the country,” said political analyst Neal Milner. “Those sorts of things don’t change very dramatically.”

Saturday’s primary election offered little excitement for voters, with the contest for Honolulu mayor serving as the marquee race that Milner and others considered more of a referendum on Honolulu’s troubled rail project.

“There really weren’t many compelling races at all,” Milner said. By itself, he said, the mayor’s race “didn’t have the buzz to turn out a lot of people.”

On Saturday, there were 16 uncontested races in the state Senate and House, and all but one of the unopposed candidates are Democrats.

Both political analyst Dan Boylan and Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science associate professor, contend that hard-core supporters and opponents of Honolulu’s rail project likely voted in the mayor’s race.

But the low turnout showed that voters had little other interest.

“This primary is all about rail,” Moore said. “It’s a referendum on rail, for sure.”

In the 2008 primary election, only 246,070 voters cast ballots, and 95,042 voted by mail or in early walk-in balloting.

While Boylan expects the number of voters to jump in November’s general election, Moore said he believes they’ll be turned off by the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Moore expects that November’s voter turnout in Hawaii will be “extremely low. There are unfavorables for both (Clinton and Trump), and I think there’s a lot of people who won’t vote at all.”

This year’s presidential election is based on “fear,” Moore said, and studies show that “fear makes voters stay home.”

Boylan contends the number of Hawaii votes will jump “because the presidential election is huge.”

Milner isn’t sure what to expect in November.

“This election is going to be a little harder to read for turnout both here and generally,” he said. “Both Clinton and Trump are historically the most disliked candidates that we’ve ever had for the presidency. That might make people back away.”

No big problems

The state’s 233 polling places from Hanalei, Kauai, to South Point on Hawaii island opened without any major problems, according to election spokeswoman Nedielyn Bueno. No major problems were reported throughout by the state Office of Elections.

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

Early voting

Saturday’s election continued to show a preference by voters to cast mail-in ballots or vote early in person.

By the close of business Thursday, 19,215 of the state’s 726,941 registered voters had voted through early walk-in and absentee voting.

On Oahu that meant that 9,928 of the 483,076 registered voters had voted before Saturday, according to the elections office, down from about 10,500 in 2014.

For the neighbor islands, state election officials reported that 4,838 of Hawaii island’s 109,690 registered voters had already voted before the polls opened Saturday, along with 2,101 of Maui County’s 91,139 registered voters and 2,348 of Kauai’s 43,036 registered voters.

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

Robyn Loudermilk, who was 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, adding that 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 Danny Matteo’s office was still trying to hire precinct workers Saturday.

“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 poll books 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 past 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, uses only paper ballots.

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

Star-Advertiser reporter Dominique Times contributed to this report.

Comments (26)

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  • The first sentence is flawed by a double negative. It should read,

    “Hawaii set a record low for voter TURNOUT in a primary election on Saturday…”


    “Hawaii set a record HIGH for voter apathy in a primary election on Saturday…”

    • I feel that Djou lost his 9% poll lead as many began to worry that he is more a Punahou empty shirt ideologue and chatter bug than a down in the weeds mayor. Any mayor has to love sewers, garbage, parks, streets, etc. That slot does not fit Djou I fear.

  • Since the C & C of Honolulu Mayor’s race was of considerable interest, Oahu voters may have turned out in a higher % than elsewhere in the state. What was the Oahu turnout percentage?

    • This is all in the design. When primary elections were in October, back in the day, it was more of a focus for the electorate.

      August, folks are still out of town, school hasn’t started for many, and for those that have, are very busy with the new school year.

      I even heard a football game in the high school field yesterday afternoon. This is how the government and politicians want it. All in the design.

      • Oh please a football game, really? The government has made it easier to vote than ever. There is walk in early voting, mail in, heck you could have walked in early, registered to vote on site, then cast your ballot. I voted early, my wife went to the polls and there was no line, she was in and out in a few minutes. There is no grand conspiracy to suppress voting in Hawaii, only lame excuses from people who don’t vote.

    • I’m not an analyst but here are my thoughts. Dijou was close because Caldwell’s unsupervised leadership of the rail, both losers. If not for the rail then 3 to 2 Caldwell. Carlisle is the biggest loser no other comment necessary. All other house & senate races had no doubt who would win. So really a boring primary.
      On the other hand the general will be exciting because of 2 not the best choices running. Hillary will win big because the alternative candidate is a total moron. And the last thing we want is him running our country. But lets not take that for granted because there are a lot of people who unfortunately think like him, yikes. The Fox network is backing Trump to the fullest because they are really intelligent people. If he wins there will be a North and South States division.

  • Speculation but it’s probably a message that the people of Hawaii are not happy with the job most politicians are doing.
    They are not doing what’s right for the community but have their hands out out for contributions from special interests groups therefore.

  • The lazy people here should be ashamed and never have the right to complain about any elected official. It has been made so easy to vote and so many people don’t. There are no excuses good enough. Our state is one of the worst when it comes to voting.

  • The real political fireworks will start, with the General Election. There will be many political alliances, jumping the historical fence. This will be the beginning, of the end, for the Democrats & Republican parties.

    No more career politicians, no more false campaign promises, and no more Elected Ruling Elite Arrogance. That will be the new party battle cry.

    A new party, born from the ashes of both parties. They no longer serve, “We the People!”

  • Come on people, people don’t vote because they are happy with the way things are……..I predict the voter turn out will even be lower the next time around…..lulled into a false sense of security…

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