DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, at left, was greeted by Jewel Paguyo, 13, yesterday at a get-out-the-vote concert and rally at Iolani Palace. CLICK FOR LARGE
Isle races approach the finish line
A get-out-the-vote event at Iolani Palace draws 1,500
IN 37 years, Koa Ibarra voted once.
But this coming Tuesday, the Kalihi musician said he will cast his second ballot ever for a very simple reason: "I want to make a difference," said the drummer for one of several bands that played in a free, get-out-the-vote concert at Iolani Palace yesterday.
The daylong event, dubbed "No Vote, No Grumble," came amid fears that Hawaii could experience its lowest voter turnout in history, in part because of a lack of hotly contested races.
Event organizers yesterday said they were encouraged that 1,500 people showed up for the event, more than a similar rally held before the primary, but the turnout was still below the 2,500 they had hoped would attend.
All 3,000 bowls of chicken luau served yesterday were gone by 1 p.m., organizers said.
Mona Wood, one of the organizers, said Hawaiian and civic groups this year registered 5,000 new voters by the Oct. 9 deadline. She said there are about 154,000 eligible native Hawaiian voters in the state, but only half of them are registered.
Calvin Kaawa, a 39-year-old native Hawaiian from Hakipuu, said he gave up on voting shortly after graduating from high school because he felt elected officials were disconnected from the Hawaiian community. Now, the boat operator says he will participate because of ongoing issues affecting Hawaiians, such as recent legal challenges to Kamehameha Schools' enrollment policy and a shortage of affordable rentals.
Several candidates stopped by to drop off pamphlets and shake hands, including Democrat Sen. Daniel Akaka and his challenger, Republican state Rep. Cynthia Thielen. While she is hoping for a high turnout from voters in both parties, Thielen said she thinks her advantage over Akaka, an 82-year-old incumbent, will grow if fewer people cast ballots.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Aunty Genoa Keawe performed yesterday at a get-out-the-vote concert and rally at Iolani Palace. The organizers announced one final push to get native Hawaiians to vote and continue their mission to get more native Hawaiians registered to vote in future elections. The event featured entertainment, hula, free "No vote, no grumble" T-shirts, food, health and election information, and opportunities to meet some of the candidates. CLICK FOR LARGE
"Republicans are committed voters that believe in their candidates," she said. "I believe they will turn out to vote."
Akaka, a crowd favorite yesterday who frequently stopped for hugs and pictures, said his strategy would now consist of greeting people face to face.
"I am not taking it for granted. I'm working hard with hundreds of volunteers," said Akaka, who's seeking a third, six-year term in Washington, D.C. "We've been up since 8 a.m."
Gov. Linda Lingle is holding a rally at the Hawaiian Waters Adventures Park in Kapolei today. Tomorrow night, Republicans were scheduled to gather at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
"We are pushing very hard to maximize voter turnout," said Lingle, acknowledging she was "very confident" about her race against Democrat Randy Iwase and her chances of securing a second term in office.
Iwase drove around Oahu on a bus yesterday, stopping in Hawaii Kai and Kaneohe to sign wave with help from Sens. Daniel Inouye and Akaka as well as U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. The former state senator, who also flew to Kauai for a brief rally, said he would campaign in Hilo tomorrow.
"It is always hard to go against any incumbent," he said in a telephone interview, criticizing Lingle's $6 million campaign chest and hoping that his grass-roots efforts would appeal to voters. "Now it is about meeting as many people as you can."