Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Hawai'i voter registration surges for general election

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

More than 21,000 people have signed up to vote in Hawai'i since the primary election, the largest increase in voter registration between a primary and general election in a decade, state elections officials said yesterday.

The largest jump — 14,968 new voters — was on O'ahu, where Duke Bainum and Mufi Hannemann are locked in a runoff for Honolulu mayor, according to the state Office of Elections. Both candidates have predicted that higher voter turnout would benefit their campaigns.

"It is an encouraging sign," said Rex Quidilla, an election spokesman. "But we would like to remind voters that registering is just one step in the process. They have to go out and vote."

Voter turnout was 39.7 percent in the September primary, but election officials are optimistic that turnout in the November general election will improve. In 2000, the last presidential election year, turnout was 58.2 percent.

Several states have reported increases in voter registration this year, which might be an indication that more people are taking an interest in the presidential campaign between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. But it also could be the energy surrounding local races, such as the Bainum-Hannemann contest, that has captured voter attention.

"I think politicians and political parties have been quite active in their efforts to get people to register," Quidilla said, noting that registration forms are easily accessible through telephone books and at government offices. "I do have a sense that there is a greater effort out there."

Along with traditional appeals from political parties, Native Hawaiians and young people involved with MTV's "Rock the Vote" have reached out to Hawai'i residents this year.

Michelle Horikawa, a senior at Baldwin High School on Maui, and her friends set up a voter registration booth at the recent "American Idol" concerts at the Blaisdell Arena. Horikawa, who is too young to vote this year, was working through the group "Freedom's Answer," a voter registration effort by young people nationwide.

"I just thought it was important to encourage people to vote," Horikawa said. "It's one of our basic rights."

The surge in new voters in Hawai'i over the past several weeks mirrors the increase in 1994, when 20,150 new voters signed up. The record for new voters between a primary and general election was in 1992, according to Quidilla, when 31,722 new voters registered. Interest in politics that year was higher nationally, with Democrat Bill Clinton and independent H. Ross Perot challenging George H.W. Bush for president.

Election officials pared the voter rolls of many ineligible voters after the 2002 elections, when registration was at 676,242. Voter registration is now at 647,238 statewide.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.

• • •