CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Absentee voters at City Hall came out in force yesterday afternoon. The general election is Tuesday.
Voter apathy could break record
A lackluster campaign is blamed for what could be the worst turnout in isle history
Unless a dramatic number of people decide to vote, Hawaii might see its worst turnout ever on Election Day.
End of Absentees
Today is your last chance to vote early at walk-in absentee centers throughout the state. Some locations and hours:
Honolulu Hale, main courtyard, 530 S. King St., 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Pearlridge Mall, Satellite City Hall, second floor, Uptown, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Kapolei Hale, 100 Ulu Ohia, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Windward Mall, first floor next to Sears, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Historic County Building, 4396 Rice St., Lihue, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Office of the County Clerk, 200 S. High St., seventh floor, Wailuku, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lahaina Civic Center, Social Hall, 1840 Honoapiilani Highway, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 E. Puainako St., Hilo, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Kona Mayor's Office, Conference Room, Hamana Place, 75-5706 Kuakini Highway, Suite 103, Kailua-Kona, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
The state Office of Elections reported yesterday that the number of people voting absentee is trending below previous general elections -- 90,993 as of yesterday. Two years ago, about 110,000 people had already cast ballots at this point in the election.
If the current trend continues, the absentee turnout might be on par or a little above this year's primary election, when 102,349 people voted absentee. Total turnout in the primary was 42 percent.
While cautioning that absentee voting is not a full indication of the final turnout, Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said "it doesn't appear that we'll be on track to surpass the previous election totals."
Quidilla noted that absentee voting had been increasing -- both in numbers and as a percentage of the total vote since 1996.
But this year seems to be an exception.
Other election observers agree that turnout is likely to be low.
"This is such a lackluster campaign," said long-time political pollster Don Clegg. "There's no fire anywhere and there's nothing to excite people to get involved."
The primary election had interesting Senate and congressional races, said University of Hawaii political science professor Ira Rohter. "It's a safe bet who is going to win those races (in the general election)."
Hawaii's previous worst turnout in a general election, 57 percent, was in 2002, which was also a midterm election year.
Walk-in absentee voting is down significantly statewide, Quidilla said. But there were a large number of mail-in ballot requests this year -- nearly 86,000, with the neighbor islands seeing record numbers of requests. Normally about 80 percent to 90 percent of mail-in ballots are returned.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
With the absentee deadline near, voters lined up at City Hall yesterday to cast ballots.
With only a few days until the election, officials suggest absentee ballots that haven't been mailed yet should be dropped off at the county clerk's office to ensure that they arrive by the close of business on Tuesday.
Clegg said a low turnout is not likely to have an influence on the outcome of the major statewide races. But it might be a factor in some House, Senate and Council races.
A low turnout tends to favor incumbents and most likely Democrats, Clegg and Rohter said.
Most of the people who turn out are going to be dedicated voters who always cast ballots. "There's a bigger solid core of Democrats," Clegg said.
Turnout could also be a factor in the state constitutional questions, since hard-core voters might be more likely to vote rather than leave the questions blank, Clegg said. Blank votes have the effect of a "no" vote.
Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Sam Aiona noted that the mayor's race on Kauai was decided by only two votes and he expects a lot of close races, especially in the open seats in the House and Senate with no incumbent.
"I wouldn't be surprised if a few races are not decided until much later in the morning," Aiona said.
"When you have a low voter turnout, it becomes Politics 101," Aiona said. "Whoever does a better job of turning out their voters will win."