Early balloting pleases Senate hopefuls
Oahu voting sites log almost 1,000 more absentee walk-ins than at the same time in '04
Officials across the state are reporting heavy absentee walk-in voting in the last week before the primary election.
Some point to the heated contests for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House in the 2nd Congressional District (rural Oahu-neighbor islands).
"I think it has picked up in the last few days," Gov. Linda Lingle said in an interview, noting she has noticed more interest in the Democratic race for the Senate and both primaries for the House contests.
In Honolulu, 8,575 have already voted at the four walk-in absentee voter sites.
That is 983 more that at the same time before the 2004 election, City Clerk Denise DeCosta said.
The neighbor island counties did not have a comparison number for the first week of absentee voting in the 2004 election, but officials in Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties all report high numbers in absentee walk-in voting.
On the Big Island 4,538 have already voted, Kauai had 2,228 and Maui had 1,607.
Big Island officials said that the entire walk-in absentee total in 2004 was 6,981 and this year is likely to be higher. Already 500 voters have cast an absentee ballot in Hilo, according to the Hawaii County clerk's office.
"I see a lot of activity on the neighbor islands. I was on Maui and in Hilo, and I did see quite a lot of activity out there," Lingle said.
The two Democrats running for the Senate, Sen. Dan Akaka and Rep. Ed Case, both say a big turnout will help their campaigns.
"We assumed absentee and walk-in would be up this year, it just goes to show what can happen when voters have real choices," Case said.
"I think it is great news. Any increase in voting is welcome, the Senate race should be decided by as many voters as possible," said Case, who noted his volunteers are calling absentee voters to remind them to mail back their ballots.
Akaka also says he is looking for a high turnout to help his campaign.
"It would certainly help, we are making a huge effort to get people to vote and we will continue to do it through election day," Akaka said.
"I think the higher turnout will be in our favor," Akaka said.
The concern for candidates, however, is that absentee voters will vote on more than one primary and spoil their ballot.
State law allows voters to vote in only one primary, so voters must decide if they want to vote in the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or Green party.
Lingle said she is telling supporters to make sure they carefully read the ballot.
"My advice is to read the ballot, because can only vote in one party primary. Don't just start voting, read the ballot first," Lingle, who is running for re-election on the GOP ticket, said.
Akaka also said he was concerned about absentee voting, because some of his supporters are reporting that the ballot can be confusing.
"I know people who said they had to read it three times to understand what they had to do, so it is alarming," Akaka said.
"Hopefully, we won't have too many spoiled ballots," Akaka added.
In 2004, nearly 13 percent of the voters took absentee ballots. The percent of ballots spoiled by voting in more than one party ranged from a low of half a percent on the Big Island to 1 percent on Oahu.
In all, a total of 5,559 absentee ballots were tossed out in the 2004 primary because voters had voted in more than one party ballot.