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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, August 2, 2004

Voter registry down 9.5%

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 •  Voting: What you need to know

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

With the Sept. 18 primary election seven weeks away, Hawai'i has 64,000 fewer registered voters than in the 2002 election.

The registration rolls were purged last year of more than 100,000 inactive voters, a cut of 15 percent. Elections officials say increased interest in the presidential race is already contributing to a recovery from the cut.

In the 2002 general election, only 385,462 of the state's 676,242 registered voters submitted ballots — a 57 percent turnout. The removal of inactive voters could boost turnout by eight to 10 percentage points, simply because the number of registered voters is smaller, said Honolulu elections administrator Glen Takahashi.

But there is a traditional bump in voting numbers in presidential election years, and Honolulu City Clerk Denise DeCosta said the hot political battle between incumbent Republican George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry should bring more voters to the polls.

"I think the numbers will look better this time," she said.

Becky Ward, president of the market research and polling firm Ward Research, said Hawai'i traditionally votes in higher numbers in presidential election years, and that this year could be bigger than normal.

"There are a lot of eyes on the presidential race, and there are a lot of reasons to pay attention to it," Ward said.

Ranked last in 2002

The Census Bureau reported this week that Hawai'i had the lowest registration and voting numbers in the nation in 2002. However, Hawai'i elections officials dispute that, saying the data were based on estimates and the actual numbers aren't as bad as the Census reported.

Still, DeCosta said it's clear that more work is needed to boost registration and turnout in Hawai'i.

Elections officials are looking for new ways to encourage voting, and for the first time they will be registering voters at the State Farm Fair in Kapolei. DeCosta said new voters can look for the registration booth just inside the entrance.

"I think people in Hawai'i would have such pride in their community that they would not want the reputation of having such a low turnout," she said.

Takahashi said that 103,792 registered voters were removed from the voter list last year. Of those, 8,500 have died, 4,900 had moved away and are no longer qualified to vote in the Islands, and 2,100 remain here but asked to be removed from the voter list.

(State voter services coordinator Rex Quidilla said imprisoned felons can't vote, but they are kept on the records and can reapply once they've served their sentences.)

The remainder of purged registered voters — 88,292 — were dropped for lack of response to mailed notices from the state Office of Elections.

"We suspect they've picked up and move away," Takahashi said.

DeCosta said many voters have left the state because of school, jobs or new assignments from the military.

Staying on the list

Under the National Voter Registration Act, a registered voter can't be removed from the list until two full election cycles, including two primary elections and two general elections, have gone by without the voter casting a vote, and the state has sent two mailed notices asking for a response.

It isn't hard to stay on the rolls. Even if you haven't voted in four elections in a row, all you have to do is let elections officials know you're still interested.

You can call from O'ahu at 453-VOTE (453-8683) or from the Neighbor Islands at (800) 442-VOTE (800-442-8683). Or call your city or county clerk's elections division.

One benefit of the purging process is it catches voters who have moved and allows them to vote in their new precincts.

Takahashi said that as of July 23, there were about 612,000 voters registered. The numbers were expected to continue to climb to the Aug. 19 deadline for registering for the Sept. 18 primary election. They may climb further toward the Oct. 4 deadline for registering for the Nov. 2 general election, when voters get to select the U.S. president.

Takahashi said that one sign of increased interest in elections this year is that absentee ballot requests from Hawai'i residents living out of state are higher than two years ago.

"We're getting more requests for absentee ballots. The pile of paper keeps growing, and it's definitely higher than in 2002," he said. "In presidential years, there seems to be a lot more attention paid to elections."

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

• • •


• When are the elections?

The Hawai'i primary election is Saturday, Sept. 18.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

• Can I still register to vote?

Aug. 19 is the deadline to register to vote in the primary election. Oct. 4 is the deadline for the general election.

• I voted in 2002. Do I need to re-register?

No, unless you have moved or changed your name.

• Who is eligible to vote?

You must be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident of Hawai'i and at least 18 years old on Election Day.

• How do I register to vote?

The easiest way is with a "Wikiwiki" mail-in registration form. The one-page forms are available at:

  • Public libraries.
  • Post offices.
  • County clerk's offices and satellite city halls.
  • Verizon Hawaii yellow pages and Paradise Pages O'ahu telephone directory.
  • Most state agencies.
  • www.hawaii.gov/elections/forms/frm_wiki.pdf

People may also register to vote in person at their county clerk's office.

• What are absentee voting deadlines?

For the primary election, mail-in votes are accepted until Sept. 11; walk-in voting will be at county clerk's offices 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, Sept. 3-16.

For the general election, mail-in votes are accepted until Oct. 26; walk-in voting will be at county clerk's offices 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, Oct. 19-30.

• Where can I get more information?

  • www.hawaii.gov/elections
  • State Office of Elections: 453-8683
  • Honolulu clerk's office: 523-4293
  • Hawai'i County clerk's office: (808) 961-8277
  • Maui County clerk's office: (808) 270-7749
  • Kaua'i County clerk's office: (808) 241-6350

Source: Office of Elections