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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Nothing special about turnout

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Never, it seems, had so few turned out to vote for so many.

"There were only a couple of people here when the polls opened at 7 a.m.," said Debra Gorai, precinct chairwoman at the Hau'ula Elementary School polling place. "After that, it was a steady a trickle. It's been really slow."

Voters in rural O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands cast ballots yesterday in a special election to choose someone to serve the final five weeks of the U.S. House term of the late Patsy Mink.

The state is counting the votes today and will announce the winner from the field of 38 candidates this afternoon, said Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the Office of Elections. A second special election will be held Jan. 4 to elect a successor to Mink for the full two-year term in the 108th Congress.

Quidilla estimated yesterday's turnout at 7 percent of registered voters.

"That just a finger in the air," Quidilla said.

"There's been a lot of competition for people's time today," said Jean Bross, precinct official at Kapolei Elementary School. "The (University of Hawai'i) football game, the beautiful weather, which makes people think of doing all sorts of outdoor activities and, of course, this is a big shopping weekend."

Voters mark their ballots at Kailua Intermediate School in the special election to decide who'll serve the final weeks of Patsy Mink's term.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Two hours after the polls opened at Kamokila Park Recreation Center in Honokai Hale, five precinct workers stared at six empty voting booths. Precinct chairwoman Arline West said at the time that fewer than 20 voters had shown up.

Then at 9:40 a.m., what looked like a flood of voters rolled in all at once in three vehicles. But it turned out that none had come to vote. They were there to use the park.

"I've never voted in my life," explained Roger Hatzky, who lives a short distance away and came to the park just to clean out his truck. "I've given up. To me it's all turned negative. All they do is find fault with the other candidate. Who're you going to vote for?"

Such sentiments cause Roger Rhodes to shake his head. Rhodes, precinct chairman at the voting site at Sunset Beach Elementary School, said barely more than 100 voters had come through the door by noon yesterday.

"The people who don't vote get what they deserve," lamented Rhodes. "And the rest of us suffer along with them. The ones who don't vote choose for the rest of us because the majority doesn't vote. So, in a way, the majority rules."

Not far away, though, at Hale'iwa Elementary School, the joint was fairly jumping. A person assigned to count heads at the exit door had put the number of voters there at more than 300 by 11:30 a.m.

"I've come out of an obsessive obligation to do my public duty," said voter Don Kilmer, who arrived on a bicycle. "If they have an election, I vote. But I do resent this one because it's a waste of time."

Joan Gossett, who cast her ballot shortly after Kilmer, firmly agreed.

"This is the stupidest thing," she said. "I can't understand why this state doesn't do like other states and just let the governor appoint an interim person.

"This election cost a million and a half dollars, and it's only for five weeks. By the time they make the transition, it will be time for someone else to take over."

Voters dropped their ballots into a slot of a sealed metal container. All ballots from all islands were sent to the State Capitol, where officials will feed them into the counting machines.

Quidilla said the electronic voting machines weren't used at polling places to save money and to simplify the count of all ballots in the Senate chamber at the Capitol.

The Jan. 4 election will be run the same way, Quidilla said.

Back at Hau'ula Elementary, Gorai said the urge to shop after Thanksgiving had been a topic of discussion among voters at her polling place.

"Several people said if they had just put the polling booths at the shopping malls, there would have been a lot bigger turnout," she said. "Which, if you think about it, is not really a bad idea."