Early walk-in voting down statewide; mail-in voting flat

Early walk-in voting down statewide; mail-in voting flat

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Early walk-in voting has plunged across the state, even in Maui County, where a hotly-contested GMO initiative is on the ballot, which could mean lower turnout on Election Day this Tuesday.

At Honolulu Hale, there are usually big lines and long waits at the walk-in early voting site just days before the election. Not this time.

Even at lunch hour Friday, on the second-to-last day of walk-in voting at City Hall, there was virtually no line, just one or two people waiting to vote.

"Previous years I've had to wait maybe 15 minutes or so, but this year, nothing," said Rhoads Stevens, who has voted early for years.

As of mid-morning Friday, the City Clerk's office says 10,524 people had cast their votes early at walk-in sites on Oahu, with two days remaining of early voting.

So Oahu is headed for about half as many walk-in votes compared to the last two elections, when 24,288 people voted early in 2012 and 22,267 voted early in person in 2010.

Honolulu Elections Administrator Glen Takahashi does not know why the early turnout is so low this fall.

"Maybe saturation. Complete saturation with all of the messages and things like that. Not certain," Takahashi said. "Of course, obviously, presidential elections tend to be a bit higher than what we call gubernatorial elections, so that could be a factor as well."

Early mail-in voting has grown by 5,000 to 10,000 voters on Oahu each election year, but this year that large growth has stopped.

Approximately 88,174 mail-in ballots had been received as of mid-morning Friday, compared to 113,507 in 2012 and 96,025 in 2010, Honolulu City Clerk elections officials said.

Asked to explain why fewer people are turning out early, Meredith Miller, who voted early at City Hall Friday, said, "Maybe everybody's disgusted with government in general, I don't know."

Elise Anderson, another early voter, said, "People just aren't very enthusiastic about any candidates, I think, and it's often picking among the lesser of two evils or three or four evils, and that just doesn't energize people to make the drive."

Justin Nii, who voted on his lunch hour Friday, said, "There's still one more day, though right? So hopefully more people can turn out tomorrow or something. I don't know why it's down."

Maui County reports a big drop in walk-in voting in spite of a major fight over a ballot initiative for a moratorium on genetically modified crops that has brought a record $8 million in spending by the big agrochemical companies trying to kill the proposal.

As of the close of business Thursday, Maui County reported 2,380 people had voted early, compared to 4,089 in 2012 and 3,691 in 2010.

While Maui County saw more mail-in ballots sent out than ever before – 21,497 – only 13,186 had been returned by Thursday afternoon. That compares to 13,994 mail-in ballots received in 2012 and 10,497 received in 2010.

Hawaii County walk-in voting is also down drastically this year, with 5,112 people voting at five early voting sites around Hawaii island so far compared to 9,502 early walk-ins in 2012 and 10,253 in 2010, said Pat Nakamoto, the county's election administrator.

Mail-in ballots on the Big Island did not appear to be increasing this year. As of Friday, Hawaii County had received 17,007 mail-in ballots, and expected to see roughly 1,000 to 1,200 more come in for each of the next four days. In 2012, the county received 22,245 mail-in votes, up from 9,877 in 2010.

On Kauai, early voting numbers are also on the decline. As of the close of business Friday, 2,886 people had cast walk-in early votes, according to Lyndon Yoshioka, Kauai's election administrator. With one more day of early voting Saturday, the walk-in totals this year will not surpass 2012, when 3,885 people voted in person early.

The highest number of early walk-in voters Kauai County saw was in the days before this year's primary, in advance of Tropical Storm Iselle, when about 700 people voted in a day, Yoshioka said.

Yoshioka said Kauai sent out an all-time record number of mail-in ballots this year, 10,702. But so far, the Kauai County Clerk's office has received 7,360 mail-in ballots as of the close of business Friday.

Kauai voters mailed in 8,601 early ballots in 2012 and 7,852 early ballots in 2010.

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