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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Lingle garnered Ni'ihau support

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

Gov.-elect Linda Lingle's strongest pocket of support may have come from an unlikely source — the quiet island of Ni'ihau.

Of the 51 people who voted at the Ni'ihau polling place on Election Day, 50 voted for Lingle and running mate Duke Aiona, and one cast a blank ballot.

The rest of Kaua'i County went strongly for the Democratic team of Mazie Hirono and Matt Matsunaga. Once again, it shows that Ni'ihau is in many ways its own unique place.

But Ni'ihau is not predictably partisan, nor does a Hawaiian connection guarantee success, although Ni'ihau residents are all of Hawaiian ancestry and all speak Hawaiian as their first language.

Fifty of the island's voters cast ballots in the mayoral race for Democrat County Council chairman Ron Kouchi, and one voted for mayor-elect Bryan Baptiste, a Republican who is part-Hawaiian.

Part of the explanation for this may be simple proximity. Kouchi is from Waimea, just across the channel from Ni'ihau, so his family is known to Ni'ihau residents.

The residents of Ni'ihau traditionally have a strong voter turnout, and they did again in this general election. In addition to the 51 who voted on the island, 27 Ni'ihau residents voted absentee. The results of the absentee ballots were not available.

Those 78 voters represent an 86.7 percent turnout of the 90 registered Ni'ihau voters, according to the county elections office.

The island increased in both the number of registered voters and in turnout from the primary election, when 71 of 85 registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of 83.5 percent.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.