There were glitches in a handful of voting machines as island residents turned out for Tuesday’s midterm elections — the first allowing on-the-spot registration statewide.
By Election Day more than 188,000 absentee mail-in and early walk-in ballots already had been cast, but with a lack of hotly contested races like those that drew strong voter turnout on the mainland, overall turnout was expected to be low despite same-day registration.
All 235 polling sites statewide opened on time at 7 a.m., said Nedielyn Beuno, voter services section head of the state Office of Elections.
Two electronic voting machines — one at Leilehua High School and one at Waipahu High School — had temporary problems that were fixed.
A troubleshooter was sent to Ala Wai Community Park to fix a voting machine. And troubleshooters also replaced a ballot scanner at Helemano Elementary School and fixed a ballot scanner at Mililani High School, Bueno said.
Joseph Magaldi Jr., precinct chairman at McKinley High School, said a voting machine there was down for approximately an hour before it was fixed.
None of the glitches caused major problems for voters, Bueno said.
During the August primary election, fewer than 39 percent of registered Hawaii voters turned out.
And in the 2016 presidential election, Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout rate in the nation for the fifth consecutive presidential election, with only 43 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, according to a report by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project.
Hawaii ranked last out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, preceded by West Virginia (50.8 percent), Texas (51.6 percent), Tennessee (52 percent) and Arkansas (53.1 percent).
But Tuesday at precincts such as Castle High School in Kaneohe, it appeared turnout was strong.
During the primary election in August, 600 people voted at Castle, said precinct worker Grant Yoshimori. By midday Tuesday, 400 people had already cast ballots, he said.
“It’s a nice turnout,” Yoshimori said. “Nice and steady.”
Republican voter Wayne Deguchi, 78, works part time at the Pohai Nani senior community nearby and drove 15 voters to Castle. He planned to bring another load of voters later in the day.
Deguchi pulled a straight Republican ticket himself but said he believed that voter enthusiasm was up in Hawaii and the rest of the nation “because people want change,” he said. “That’s important.”
Although Deguchi voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, “his comments turn me off,” Deguchi said. “His mouth gets him into too much trouble.”
Melissa Iwamoto again brought her 6-year-old daughter, Maya Glenn, to Castle High School to watch her vote.
“It’s our civic responsibility,” Iwamoto said. “It’s our duty, our kuleana, and it’s a privilege to vote.”
Teen volunteers who are not old enough to vote volunteered to help voters at the McKinley High School and Aiea High School cafeterias.
The teenage volunteers are conscientious and eager to learn, said Peter Miller, precinct chairman at Aiea High School.
This year’s general election was the first in Hawaii where same-day registration was offered at all 235 polling sites, including 144 on Oahu.
Some of the nearly 50 people who registered to vote Tuesday at Aiea High School were high school students who turned 18, along with military families who recently moved to Hawaii, Miller said.
“I’m glad we do that in the state,” he said of same-day registration.
Claudja So, a college student who just turned 18, cast her ballot for the first time at Kawananakoa Middle School where turnout was steady.
“My parents were saying that as a citizen of the U.S., we are given this right to vote so that I should vote, and so I said OK — though I had to do some last-minute research on the candidates,” So said. “I definitely feel like an adult now.”
After voting, for her parents So posed for a photo with her “#hivoted” ballot stub. Her mother, Michelle, said she had urged Claudja to participate.
“I told her, I said many people have fought for us not just as women, but as citizens to have the right to vote,” Michelle So said. “We have all these complainers and they’ve never voted. Whether your candidate wins or not, you had a say in who could have been on the seat or who isn’t going to make it.”
Jane Luis-Mateo, 47, of Kakaako registered to vote at McKinley High School to set an example for her three children and six grandchildren.
“If I’m not going to do it, they’re not going to do it,” she said.
Luis-Mateo also voted because she said change is needed to help younger generations — like her children and grandchildren — to be able to work and live in Hawaii.
“Everything is just ridiculously high,” Luis-Mateo said. “Nothing is affordable. The struggle is real.”
Her husband, a Navy veteran and commercial painter, has no days off because he works, attends school and helps run the Veteran’s Resource Center at Honolulu Community College.
Ala Moana resident Lisa Man, 43, who has voted in every election since age 18, said voting is vital, especially in today’s political climate.
“I’m a woman. I’m a minority so it’s super important,” said Man, who is of Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese descent.
“I can’t believe the kind of things that are happening. Racism, blatant racism. Neo-Nazis. A president who is so volatile,” said Man, an English teacher at Farrington High School.
She recalled how she advised her students who are 18 to register to vote.
“Some people think their vote doesn’t matter, but it does matter,” she said. “I just hope a lot of good people went out and voted.”
Staff writers Andrew Gomes, Susan Essoyan and Nina Wu contributed to this report.