Energize turnout in
state’s elections


A survey shows Hawaii last in voter turnout in the 2004 presidential election.

OPINION polls late in last year's presidential race showing Hawaii to be up for grabs were expected to bring voters to the polls in large numbers. It didn't happen, and Hawaii held onto the disgraceful distinction of having the nation's lowest voter turnout. Appropriate action, such as voting by mail, is needed to change this chronic phenomenon.

Purging more than 100,000 names of departed residents from the state's roll of registered voters two years ago was supposed to have corrected what looked to be a continuing bum rap. The Census Bureau had reported that only 44.1 percent of Hawaii's eligible voters cast ballots in the 2000 presidential election, compared to the national turnout rate of 59.5 percent.

The bureau's survey of last year's election shows that Hawaii's turnout rate crept to 50.8 percent of eligible voters, while the national rate soared to 63.8 percent. Hawaii's capture of the booby prize wasn't even close; bright red Georgia was next-lowest at 56.8 percent.

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate reported in January that Hawaii's turnout was last among the states in the 2004 election at 48.9 percent. Dwayne Yoshina, Hawaii's chief elections officer, said that report was skewed by including nonresident military and a large number of aliens in the base. He said the turnout was closer to 50.8 percent, the precise estimate of the Census Bureau this week.

Island voters' past performances have been blamed on apathy and Democratic dominance. A more plausible reason might be the greater percentage of people in Hawaii who work at two or more jobs and are pressed for time for a trip to the polling station.

The logical way to deal with this chronic problem would be to follow Oregon's example of allowing people to vote by mail. Oregon's voter turnout last year was 74 percent.


U.S. should correct
security flaws at ports


Two reports have found flaws in efforts to protect against terrorism at U.S. sea ports.

THE effectiveness of security measures at Honolulu Harbor and the nation's other sea ports relies greatly on trustworthiness of shippers and foreign ports, but the policy might have increased vulnerability. Government records reveal a reduction of inspections of U.S.-bound cargo at 36 foreign ports. The system needs increased funding to eliminate flaws in protecting the nation's harbors.

The problems support complaints made earlier this year by Senator Inouye that federal security funding has been focused on aviation, leaving gaps at sea ports and other avenues of transportation. This is of special concern in Hawaii, which receives 90 percent of its goods by ship, most of it routed through West Coast ports.

A 20-month review by the congressional Government Accountability Office found that only one-third of 1 percent of the containers destined to the United States from foreign ports are inspected by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency before arriving in America. Only 17.5 percent of containers rated as "high risk" are inspected by U.S. officials at those ports.

Customs sends only four inspectors to overseas ports to supervise the handling of cargo. Al Gina, that program's director, acknowledged that some "high risk" containers have been loaded onto U.S.-bound vessels without being inspected.

The Department of Homeland Security has offered incentives to importers to allow faster movement of goods to warehouses. Containers shipped by those enrolled in the customs incentive program are inspected once every 306 times instead of once in 47 times.

The program has been so popular that the agency granted thousands of the preferential security clearances without ensuring that they had improved security measures. A Senate report says Customs has received 9,000 applications from importers and accepted 5,000, even though fewer than 600 had been verified as having taken required security measures.

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