First-time voters could decide outcome of race - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

First-time voters could decide outcome of race

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By Leland Kim - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) -  Besides veterans, another key demographic this election is first-time voters. Political analysts predict the presidential race will be close between Senators Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and John McCain (R-Arizona).

And some pollsters say, young first-time voters could decide the outcome of this race.  Early voting is going on at Honolulu Hale between 8 am and 4 pm until Saturday.

Early voting is also taking place at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where many first time voters have jumped on Obama's bandwagon.  And if enough of them show up to the polls, they could help him all the way to the white house.

Students at the UH Manoa, like most of us, know how they're voting.

"I'm supporting Obama," said Maaza Giorgis.

"I'm supporting Obama," said John Tate.

"I'm supporting Obama," said Angie Carlton.

"I'm voting for McCain," said Marisa Kawamoto.

The climate at UH mirrors the national political landscape. A recent poll conducted by NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and MySpace shows 69% of new and returning voters support Sen. Barack Obama, versus 27% for McCain.

David Spafford registered close to 2,000 first time voters at college campuses across Oahu.

"They're all eager to register. They're eager to vote. They really are interested in this election," he said.  "And I have to say it's overwhelmingly for Barack Obama."

Because of that, they could send Obama to the White House.

"I think everybody is really excited because it's their first chance to really feel like they have an impact," said Tate.

They say they're exercising this new political muscle as a reaction to the past eight years.

"Young people feel there's really a chance for a change for the first time in a long time in America," said Jason Jestice, with a campus political organization called Students for Obama.  "And they feel excited and empowered that they have a chance to make a difference."

But in a sea of Obama supporters, there is Benjamin Pritchard. He says McCain has a better plan for the economy and national security.

"At this point, America can't lose the dominance," he said.  "We need to maintain our structure and we have to maintain our superpower and with the economy and the recession, in something we simply can't do."

Whether you support Obama or McCain, these young voters says it's important to exercise your civic duty.

"I say just do it, and get out," said Douglas High. "It only takes a couple of minutes. Get out and vote. Let your voice be heard."

The key piece to young people having an impact in this election is voter turnout.  Early voting continues Friday and Saturday at 15 sites throughout the state.

For a complete list, click the link on this page.