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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 4:52 p.m., Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Hawai'i voter turnout running ahead of primary

Hawai'i's Voter Guide
Candidates dash to finish

Voters wait in line soon after the election poll opened at McKinley High School this morning. Turnout was running slightly ahead of the primary, officials said.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser
By Mike Gordon, Catherine E. Toth, Scott Ishikawa and Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Staff Writers

After weeks of pre-election buzz, you’d think people were moved to vote today because of the heated, historic race for the state’s first woman governor. But all over town, in school cafeterias, churches and gymnasiums, it was all about civic duty.

“You have to vote,” said Nikki Aguinaldo, a 29-year-old office assistant waiting in line for the doors to open at the Kalihi Uka Elementary School cafeteria. “If you don’t, you have to live with the consequences of other people’s choices.”

And there were plenty of choices.

Hawai‘i is going to the polls today to fill 103 elected positions ranging from the Board of Education to the House and Senate to governor. The gubernatorial race between Democrat Mazie Hirono and Republican Linda Lingle was the marquee attraction.

The polls opened at 7 a.m., some with lines that disappeared quickly and others, like one at Noelani Elementary School in Manoa, with a line of voters still standing patiently two hours later.

“You’re a citizen of Hawai‘i, you should do your duty,” said 40-year-old Manoa resident Loreen Hulihee. “You have a say, you need to vote.”

At ‘Ewa Elementary in ‘Ewa Villages, 60 people waited outside for the precinct to open, according to precinct chairperson Regina Keawe-Paahana.

Six-year-old Maltese Sara Jones pokes her head out of the booth at Noelani Elementary School while owner Ann Shitage works on her ballot today. Polls statewide will remain open until 6 p.m.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

“It’s been steady like this all day, and we’re getting ready for the late afternoon rush of voters,” Keawe-Pa‘ahana said while voters consistently occupied the 25 voter booths in the school cafeteria.

Voter Marcia Tagamiwasn’t happy with the lines at McKinley High School, though. A line to get in. A line to sign in. A line to vote.

“I think you spend more time waiting in line than voting,” she said with a healthy smile.

On the other side of the cafeteria, however, the line was practically non-existent. David Brueshaber breezed right through.

“I always vote in the general election and it’s a close governor’s race, so my vote counts,” Brueshaber said. “It’s a beautiful day, so I think a lot of people will be moved to vote.”

State election officials surveyed precincts statewide as a way to gauge trends. By 3 p.m. today, they found that turnout was running slightly ahead of that in the primary election, with 28 percent of registered voters showing up at the polls, compared with 23 percent in the primary.

Turnout running ahead

As of 3 p.m., the county turnout was 30 percent on the Big Island, 28 percent on Maui, 30 percent on Kauai 30, and 26 percent on O‘ahu, according to State Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla.

Quidilla said the precinct projections looked hopeful, particularly with more people absentee voting this election.

“We anticipated more people coming out for the general election because of the number of races,” he said.

Several precincts in Democratic stronghold Central Maui reported high turnout. Precinct Chairwoman Nancy Lee Potter at Baldwin High School said that by 4:30 p.m. they had already surpassed turnout in the primary election, and voters were still waiting in line to cast their ballots.

With nearly 20 charter amendments along with state, federal and county races, Potter said it was taking an average of 12 minutes for voters to wade through the ballot.

If more people vote, the race for governor might get the credit.

Hirono and Lingle spent about $6.8 million on the campaign, short of the record $8 million spent in the 1998 governor’s race.

Much of the money raised in the final weeks has been directed not only at advertising but at massive get-out-the-vote efforts, including phone banks, mail drops and door-knocking by activists of both parties.

Although Hawai‘i Democrats have traditionally been better at getting their supporters to the polls, the Republicans have invested unprecedented effort in collecting telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and home addresses of their supporters across the Islands to be used for a final get-out-the-vote push.
Lingle yesterday urged a gathering of Hawai‘i Hotel Association members in Waik&Mac246;k&Mac246; to persuade their friends and colleagues to get to the polls.
“I think if we just add supporters, I think we have more supporters than our opponent,” she said. “But you don’t win by who has the most supporters.

You win by who gets the most votes on Election Day.”

On the Democratic side, unions such as the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 5 are staging massive phone bank efforts for Hirono, with supporters also canvassing Democratic-leaning neighborhoods.

“The unions have really reached out to their own members to give them the information as to our support for working people, and everything that they care about, and they’re getting that message out even as we’re standing here today,” Hirono said yesterday.

Bill Daly, chairman of Voter Contact Services of Honolulu, which provides data about voters to political campaigns, said a number of studies have sketched out some clear turnout patterns. One basic rule is Japanese American voters in Hawai‘i tend to turn out in numbers about 10 percent higher than the state average.

For nearly 50 years, Japanese American voters have been the backbone of the Democratic Party, and The Honolulu Advertiser/News 8 Hawai‘i Poll published Friday showed that still holds true: In polling last week, Japanese American voters were the group most likely to say they support Hirono and her running mate, Matt Matsunaga.

Caucasian voters tend to turn out at about 10 percent lower than the state average, Daly said, which could be a problem for the Republicans. Caucasian voters are by far the ones most likely to say they support Lingle, according to the Hawai‘i Poll.

The other rule of turnout is that people who have been registered longer are more reliable voters, Daly said, with the lowest turnout among people who registered two years ago.

Both sides have used absentee voting as a way to round up votes. Election officials estimate more than 100,000 people would vote absentee in the general election.

Micah Kane, chairman of the Hawai‘i Republican Party, said after years of rebuilding, the Republicans are in a “structural position” to turn out the vote.
“We know who our supporters are,” Kane said. In 1998, he said, “we knew we had supporters, but didn’t know where they were.”

Republicans will be walking door-to-door, working phone banks, offering rides, he said.

On the other side, “Democrats know how to mobilize; it’s very grassroots, it’s very personal,” said Andy Winer, director of the Hawai‘i Democratic Coordinated Campaign.

Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor Christie Wilson contributed to this report.