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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 12:20 a.m., Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Voter turnout improves over primary tally

By Catherine E. Toth, Scott Ishikawa and Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writers

Kiyoshi Oshiro, 74, of Kalihi, enters the voting booth at Kalihi Uka School. Officials were uncertain whether the turnout would surpass the record of 412,520 in 1998.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Officer Noel Tenney from the Kalihi precinct was given time off from work to vote at the polling station inside Kalihi Uka School.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Voter assistance official Daniel Tawarahara helps a voter with a problem at Noelani Elementary School.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Karl Hedberg of Kapi‘olani signs in to vote at Ala Wai Elementary School as precinct official Mary Ann Mills verifies his identification.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawai'i voters flocked to the polls yesterday in a much improved turnout than the dismal showing in the Sept. 21 primary.

But it was still questionable if the general election would match the record 412,520 voters who turned out for the 1998 gubernatorial race between Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle.

By 3 p.m. yesterday, state election officials had projected the precinct 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. The precinct survey did not include absentee ballots, which could make up about one-third of the entire voter turnout.

The final printout bore out the projections: The total of 378,700 voters represented a 56 percent turnout, far better than the horrendous 41 percent turnout in the primary.

Also encouraging were voters making a last-minute dash to the polls between 3 and 6 p.m., according to precinct officials around the state. During the primary, some polling places were nearly empty around 5 p.m.

"We anticipated more people coming out for the general election because of the number of races, including the gubernatorial," Quidilla said. "So far, the activity is a positive sign of a good turnout."

After weeks of pre-election buzz, you'd think people were moved to vote yesterday 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'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."

Election officials at Sunset Beach Elementary School said they recorded possibly the biggest turnout from the area in decades.

Voters there stood in line before 6:30 a.m., with about 100 people voting by the time the poll opened at 7 a.m. By 3 p.m. the poll had collected nearly 800 ballots — about 200 more than the total number collected during the primary election. Despite a portion of Kamehameha Highway in front of Waimea Bay being shut down most of the morning due to the filming of the movie "The Big Bounce," North Shore residents streamed to the school to cast their vote.

"This could be our biggest turnout," said precinct chairman Adam Cambra, who has been doing this for the past three elections.

Marise Souza brought her 4-year-old son, Miles Alexander, to the poll with her at 3 p.m. after he showed an interest in the election.

"He was asking about it and waving at the sign-wavers," said Souza, 43, a housewife from Sunset Beach. "So I waited all day to pick him up from preschool to bring him here."

Precinct chairwoman Nancy Lee Potter at Baldwin High School on Maui said 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.

At 'Ewa Elementary in 'Ewa Villages, voters consistently occupied the 25 voter booths in the school cafeteria all day, according to precinct chairperson Regina Keawe-Paahana.

"It's been steady like this since morning, and we're getting ready for the late afternoon rush of voters," said Keawe-Pa'ahana, who observed 60 people waiting outside the precinct before the 7 a.m. opening.

There was still confusion at some of the precincts since redistricting meant new polling places for some residents. As of 1 p.m., one Mililani Mauka precinct had to redirect about 25 voters to other polling places.

"I think the confusion was a combination of reapportionment and new homeowners moving into Mililani," said precinct captain Kimberly Lafitaga.

Technical glitches at the precincts were kept to a minimum yesterday.

Some morning voters at Wai'anae Elementary accidentally got Big Island election ballots before officials resolved the matter. Four faulty ballot machines in Mililani, Wahiawa and Kailua had to be swapped, as voters left their ballots in an emergency storage container until new machines arrived shortly after, Quidilla said.

Along with the weather being near perfect across the state, election officials also didn't have to deal with distractions as on primary night with the University of Hawai'i football game or the high school gridiron classic involving St. Louis and Kahuku football teams.

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