Richard Borreca

On Politics


Sunday, September 29, 2002

Numbers make weird
election even weirder

This is the election season where nothing is as it appears. The discrepancies are clearest when you can look at the election by the numbers.

For instance, who won the Democratic primary race for governor? Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono won, but when you parse the returns, you find that Hirono won the election on the basis of the absentee ballot. She won 4,134 more absentee votes than Rep. Ed Case.

But Hirono lost the regular election by 1,531 votes. Election analysts such as pollster Don Clegg put the vote difference as a function of the effort put into the absentee vote by Case and Hirono.

"He didn't have enough troops or money for an real effort to maximize his supporters to go vote absentee," Clegg said.

Ed Case's campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination was building momentum during the week leading up to the primary election, but it peaked too late for him to win. Case greeted supporters on election night last weekend.

For his part, Case says he thinks the absentee vote proves his point that his campaign was a snowball turning into an avalanche as it went downhill, gathering force and momentum.

"We knew we were accelerating, especially during that absentee vote period," Case said. During that time, roughly two weeks before the election, polls showed that Case was rapidly rising, going from a 26-point deficit to being nearly tied with Hirono.

As it always is in elections, it turned out to be a matter of timing. Case now has just a bit more proof to his own gloomy calculations that he was just a few days away from a victory.

The just-concluded primary election brings up another set of numbers that aren't all they seem to be -- the number of people who voted.

Coming up to and even during election day, it appeared that Hawaii was going to set another record for poor voter turnout. In the primary election of 2000, only 41.7 percent of those registered actually voted. Last week the number was just slightly worse, 41.1 percent. But there is a good argument to be made that the actual numbers of registered voters is not the reported 667,000, but the 535,000 who have actually registered to vote in the last election.

Under federal law, state elections officials must keep voters on the books even if they failed to vote in the last three elections. Hawaii used to bounce them if they missed one election cycle.

So back then, with a smaller voter base, we were voting at a 70 to 65 percent rate. Now, if you calculate the new figures, the rate comes in around 51 percent, according to figures prepared by Kitty Lagareta, an official voting observer, supporter of GOP candidate for governor Linda Lingle and president of Communication Pacific.

But even Lagareta agrees that this increase only raises us from miserable to mediocre.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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