Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

Election officials man their posts in the house chamber at the state Capitol this morning after voting began around the state.
Photos by Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin

Finally, the vote

It’s a strong turnout at island polls
despite some heavy rain

By Mike Yuen and Helen Altonn

Despite heavy rains in some areas, elections officials reported a healthy turnout for today's general election.

Candidates weren't worried about losing votes in the rainfall -- but election officials warned precincts to protect ballots from rain seeping into sealed containers.

Officials said 14.09 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots by 9 a.m. The 1994 turnout by that hour was 16.2 percent but, under a new law, names of those who didn't vote in the last election weren't purged.

So election officials feel it's "a positive turnout," said Jocelyn Collado, voter services coordinator. "A 2 percent difference is not significant when you consider the extra people on the list."

Keith Kamisugi, spokesman for mayoral hopeful Arnold Morgado, said, "According tothe experts, low turnout means good results for us."

Chris Parsons, spokesman for Mayor Jeremy Harris, said, "Both sides have been saying they needed a good turnout. ... But we'd settle for one vote more than the other guy and I'll sleep very well tonight."

Weather forecasters announced a flash flood watch for Oahu, in effect until 8 p.m. today. An urban and small stream advisory was also in effect until noon for the Waianae Coast, including Kapolei, Makakilo and the Waianae mountains, said Bob Farrell, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

For the 288 candidates vying for 85 contested offices on the Hawaii ballot, the endless hours of sign waving, canvassing and debates are over.

Jeremy Harris votes today at Kalihi Elementary School while
challenger Arnold Morgado votes at Momilani Elementary.

Photos by Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin

Paul Lee, Holy Trinity deacon, worked last night and early this morning setting up voting equipment. He greeted a Charley's Taxi when election officials arrived about 5:35 a.m. with the ballots. The state has a contract with the taxi company to deliver the ballots to voting places.

About 250 volunteers packed the House chambers in the state Capitol -- on this day at election headquarters with a maze of tables, telephones and computers that took two years to organize. Workers kept in touch with precincts, dealing with problems and answering questions.

Collado said the most common problem involved people who moved since the last election, failed to reregister and didn't know where to vote.

But things were going smoothly except for some minor equipment breakdowns, she said. Voters also complained about long lines, resulting from time-consuming constitutional and charter questions, she said.

On Oahu, which has 80 percent of the state's population, city Elections Administrator Kenneth Hashimoto predicted a heavy turnout --perhaps 15 percent more than the primary election, which drew about 53 percent of eligible voters.

Absentee voting has been strong: More than 1,000 people snaked around long lines to cast absentee ballots at City Hall in four hours Monday, said Jocelyn Collado, voter services coordinator.

Just on Oahu, she said, there were more than 1,000 walk-in absentee voters and more than 29,000 mail-out ballots -- about 10 percent of Oahu's 350,000 registered voters.

Hashimoto and others cited these voter lures: The presidential election, the 1st Congressional District (urban Honolulu) rematch between incumbent Democratic congressman Neil Abercrombie and Republican challenger Orson Swindle and the hotly contested nonpartisan local races for mayor and prosecutor.

In the mayoral contest, where the city budget, crime and transportation have been key issues, former City Council Chairman Arnold Morgado is trying to unseat Jeremy Harris.

Harris beat Morgado two years ago when then-Mayor Frank Fasi made a fourth unsuccessful bid for governor.

Two former deputy prosecutors and private attorneys, David Arakawa and Peter Carlisle, are vying to be city prosecutor.

The state Senate race between Ways and Means Chairwoman Donna Ikeda (D, Hawaii Kai) and Republican small-business advocate Sam Slom is among the most closely watched of the 49 contested legislative races -- 10 in the Senate and 39 in the House.

The Legislature is expected to remain dominated by Democrats. But the GOP is poised to make modest gains.

Same-sex marriage, the economy, crime, auto insurance, lawmakers' pensions and responsiveness to the public have been key issues in legislative campaigns.

In the 2nd Congressional District (rural Oahu, neighbor islands), Democratic incumbent Patsy Mink is facing GOP challenger Tom Pico Jr., an attorney.

On the Big Island, County Clerk Donald Ikeda isn't sure if there will be a significant turnout, although there are big races for mayor and control of the County Council. Democratic Mayor Stephen Yamashiro is facing spirited challenges from Republican Jim Rath and the Green Party's Keiko Bonk, both veterans of the County Council.

Ikeda estimated that walk-in absentee voting, which closed yesterday, will be more than 7,000, compared to the primary's 6,598.

The primary walk-in absentee vote, which was higher than what the Big Isle had experienced in several years, had led Ikeda to predict a big primary turnout, but that wasn't the case.

"The turnout wasn't there. I can't understand it," Ikeda said.

On Maui, the election has been dampened by a plane crash Friday night that claimed the lives of five Democrats, including party county Chairman Bob McCarthy, Councilman Tom Morrow and council candidate Alfred Deloso.

The names of Morrow and Deloso will remain on the ballot. Should they win, the Maui County Council will appoint Democrats to fill the vacancies for the two-year term that begins Jan. 2.

In Morrow's case, the Council will appoint someone from his East Maui/Hana district to serve out his current term that expires Jan. 2, said Councilwoman Alice Lee. That appointment is expected at the Council's Nov. 20 meeting.

Six seats on the state Board of Education and four on the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are also up this year.

Statewide, voters will be asked if there should be a convention in 1998 to propose changes to the state Constitution.

They'll also be asked to consider three amendments to the Hawaii Constitution, including whether revenue bonds should be used to fund insurance coverage under the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund.

Star-Bulletin reporter Jim Witty contributed to this report.

Election results are scheduled to be available online
after 6:45 p.m. from the Office of Elections Web site at:

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