Voter registration increases by 3.8%
Whether turnout will also rise is uncertain, a UH analyst says
Voter registration for next month's primary election is up about 3.8 percent from two years ago, according to preliminary estimates.
As of yesterday, the deadline to register for voting in the Sept. 23 primary, about 650,000 people statewide had registered, said Glen Takahashi, city election administrator. Two years ago, a presidential election year, 626,120 voters registered for the primary.
Final figures, including statewide absentee ballot registrations, are expected by Labor Day, Takahashi said.
HITTING THE POLLS
As of yesterday an estimated 650,000 people had registered to vote in the Sept. 23 primary election. Here is a look at voter registration and turnout in past primaries. Total turnout includes precincts and absentee ballots.
» 2004: 626,120 total registration, 248,731 total turnout
» 2002: 667,679 total registration, 274,517 total turnout
» 2000: 629,162 total registration, 250,848 total turnout
» 1998: 582,558 total registration, 291,069 total turnout
» 1996: 531,892 total registration, 275,548 total turnout
Source: State Office of Elections
Whether the increased registration translates to increased turnout remains to be seen.
Hawaii traditionally has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country. In 2004 only 248,731, or 40 percent of registered voters, actually cast ballots in the primary, according to the state Office of Elections.
"Just because there's more people now doesn't mean that the turnout will necessarily go up in the election," said Neal Milner, a political scientist at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. "Even if it does, that doesn't mean that the long-term pattern of the decline here has turned around.
"Folks tend to think that when something happens politically, that event or that activity becomes a trendsetter, and that's not necessarily the case."
Milner said the increased interest likely stems from the combination of two high-profile races and an aggressive "get out the vote" drive by candidates and political parties.
Although 2006 is a gubernatorial election year, the highest-profile campaigns are in Congress -- U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's challenge from U.S. Rep. Ed Case and the race to fill Case's seat in the U.S. House.
Ten Democrats, two Republicans and one nonpartisan candidate are vying for Case's seat to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. The field includes seven incumbent lawmakers, two former legislators and two political newcomers.
"Case-Akaka is the most obvious, but it may be that the congressional race in the 2nd District is generating (interest)," Milner said. "In that race you really do have serious candidates -- serious primaries -- on both sides."
Voter registration efforts this year have included work done by Denise DeCosta, Honolulu city clerk, who has mailed out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in Honolulu.
Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the state Office of Elections, has noted that absentee ballot numbers have steadily increased since the law was changed to permit anyone to vote absentee with a reason.
According to state election statistics, 11.5 percent of Hawaii voters took an absentee ballot in the 2000 general election. It was 16.3 percent in 2002 and jumped to 20.7 percent in the 2004 general election.