Saturday, October 30, 2004

[ ELECTION 2004 ]

Local absentee voting
is brisk

In an election where every vote counts, more and more people are being counted early.

Last chance to vote early

Most walk-in absentee polling places are open until 4 p.m. today statewide.

» Honolulu Hale, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
» Pearlridge Mall Satellite City Hall, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
» Kapolei Hale, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
» Windward Mall, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

» County Building, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Maui County
» County Clerk's Office, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
» Mitchell Pauole Center on Molokai, 8 a.m. to noon

Big Island
» County Building, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By 4 p.m. today when walk-in absentee voting ends, more than 110,000 people will have voted before Tuesday's election. That's already more than one out of every six of the total 647,236 registered voters, with thousands of mail-in ballots yet to come in.

"It looks like the stories about the election being close maybe have generated some additional interest," said Big Island County Clerk Al Konishi. "But we won't know until everything is said and done."

On Oahu, about 74,000 people had cast ballots as of yesterday, said election Administrator Glen Takahashi. There have been 70,000 requests for mail-in ballots, of which about 49,000 have been returned, and 24,781 people voted walk-in absentee.

On Maui, the county Clerk's Office had mailed out more than 9,900 absentee ballots with 7,600 returned, and 4,053 people voted at walk-in absentee polling places as of yesterday.

The Big Island reports more than 10,000 walk-in absentee votes as of yesterday and 8,493 requests for mail-in ballots, with about 7,000 returned.

The county Clerk's Office on Kauai had 4,650 walk-in absentee voters and mailed out 4,556 ballots, 3,537 of which were returned as of yesterday.

Generally, about 80 percent to 90 percent of mail-in ballots are returned in time to be counted.

In the last presidential contest four years ago, 73,070 people voted absentee during the general election, about 20 percent of the total turnout of 371,033 statewide.

In last month's primary election, 79,276 people voted absentee, about 32 percent of the total turnout.

Among those voting absentee at Honolulu Hale was a young mother, Shawnee Hammer, who said the close election for president prompted her to vote early.

"You don't want to miss it," Hammer said. Nodding at the infant in her arms, she added, "You never know what's going to come up in the day."

Honolulu County Clerk Denise De Costa said about 40 percent of walk-in voters are using the new eSlate electronic voting machines.

She said her office is also working with voters who want to fax or e-mail a mail-in ballot, which a handful of people have done. They are able to do so, De Costa said, only if they sign a waiver of their privacy rights since clerks will be able to see how they voted.

Whether it's because of convenience, travel or other reasons, absentee voting is becoming a bigger factor in elections.

The number of people voting absentee has increased every election since 1992, which is just fine with election officials.

"The more people vote absentee, the fewer problems there are on Election Day," said De Costa. "It reduces the load on Election Day."



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