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StarBulletin.com

Enthusiastic voters see fairly smooth process


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POSTED: Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A steady steam of voters went to polling places yesterday to participate in the historic presidential election, the first to send someone born in Hawaii to the White House.

As of 11 p.m., with about 10,000 more mail-in absentee ballots left to count, turnout was at 63 percent or 436,306 of 691,156 registered voters. The final count is likely to be near the 67 percent turnout in the last presidential election.

Absentee turnout was high - 69,665 people voted at walk-in polling places and elections officials were estimating about 100,000 mail-in ballots would be received.

As of 7:30 last night, people were still voting at 10 precincts and the final precinct didn't close until about 7:45 p.m., said Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin.

The counting went fairly smoothly and elections officials were able to release an early 8:30 p.m. printout. By 9:30 p.m., about 96 percent of the ballots had been counted and it did not appear the remaining ballots would change any races.

Turnout throughout the day was steady, with lines reported at several precincts when polls opened at 7 a.m.

At Hokulani Elementary School, parking was a bigger problem than lines at the polling place yesterday afternoon.

"It was fast and easy," said first-time voter Sherry Tanaka, 24. "I don't know what I was waiting for."

Tanaka said she turned out this year because of both candidates for president and voted for Obama. "This election is so out of this world," she said.

"There's going to be history made," said Bruce Lum, who said he voted for candidates who support labor.

Republican Mitchell Kanekoa said he wanted to make sure his vote was counted. "I want to express my right, to be able to say I'm Republican."

A few problems were reported, but for the most part the election seemed to go smoothly.

At Waipahu High School, the machine to scan paper ballots broke down yesterday morning, which delayed voting.

Cronin said 10 eScan paper ballot readers and 11 eSlate direct recording machines were replaced during the day out of 800 eSlate and 400 eScan machines in precincts statewide.

The breakdowns "did not prevent anyone from voting," Cronin said.

One big difference between this election and previous elections, was that there appeared to be enough poll workers. The elections office had been short by several hundred poll workers in the days leading up to the election.

About 4,000 people signed up to work at polling places statewide.

Cronin praised the poll workers and those who turned out to vote.

"They did this because of a sense of public service" he said. "The story of this election is the people."