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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 27, 2002

Wait until Nov. 5 to decide

By Jerry Burris
Advertiser Editorial Editor

Chances are, a fair number of races in this year's election have already been decided.

What's that, you say? Isn't the election next Tuesday? How could anything be decided already?

The answer is the growing popularity of absentee voting. This year's primary election saw a huge number of voters casting their ballot well before election day. There was a time when absentee voting was for the confined or those who knew they would be away on election day. Not any more.

Many vote absentee for the convenience, for the pleasure of making their decision at home or simply because they don't like standing in line.

All that's fine, and any vote cast is to the good. But by voting absentee, voters deny themselves the opportunity to see campaigns through to the finish.

For instance, anyone who voted absentee prior to Friday night lost the opportunity to see our two leading candidates for governor debate on television, for the first and last time this year.

The debate was organized by public television, KHET, but was carried by all the major television stations and by several radio stations as well.

The scene at the KHET studios was near-bedlam, with dozens of supporters for Mazie Hirono and Linda Lingle crowding the sidewalks, honking horns, waving signs and generally stirring up a circus-like atmosphere. Inside, the candidates, their handlers and supporters milled around in an electric atmosphere.

(Truth told, a lot of the electricity was generated by television monitors tuned to the UH's successful football game against Fresno State. But, hey, take excitement where you get it.)

My personal feeling is those who voted absentee — unless they had to — cheated themselves out of the best part of the campaign. The Friday night debate showed off both Lingle and Hirono at their strongest. The two candidates were well-briefed, confident and steadily on message. What you saw that night was what the candidates have been putting out on the campaign trail for months.

The questions from a panel of television reporters were informed and pointed. While the candidates sometimes ignored the questions and instead offered up the answer they wanted to give, there was no doubting one was hearing the real Lingle and the real Hirono.

Some people were expecting today's Advertiser to contain endorsements for the governor's race and perhaps other contests. That was a reasonable assumption, but we felt to do our endorsements today would have been a bit like voting absentee. We wanted to hear the debate. We want to read what is said over the weekend and watch what the candidates do up to the last possible minute before making our endorsements.

Meanwhile, voters should watch a re-run of the debate if possible. Try to catch the candidates at one of their campaign appearances. Visit Web sites. Read our voter guide, which will be published Tuesday.

This has been a dramatic political year from the start. Do your part to be part of the finish.