Voters encountered short lines, empty polling places in primary - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Voters encountered short lines, empty polling places in primary election

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

At polling places statewide Saturday, voters encountered short lines -- or no lines -- as they cast their ballots in a primary election whose turnout hit a new low.

State election officials put turnout at about 34.7 percent, the lowest turnout in a primary election in the islands. Turnout in the 2014 primary election was 42 percent.

Officials said that nearly 252,000 of Hawaii's 723,000 registered voters cast ballots in Saturday's primary.

The polls opened at 7 a.m., and state election officials said there were no major problems.

But voters and elections volunteers alike noticed the low turnout.

"It's a lot slower," said polling place volunteer Jennifer Wilcox. "This year, we've just been kind of sitting around."

Voter Edna Butay cast her ballot Saturday morning, and said the process went smoothly.

"I know who to vote for. It's all done," she said.

Voter Charlotte Akeo said she cast her ballot out of respect for her mother "and the privilege to be an American and to be able to vote."

Scott Nago, chief elections officer, said polling places reported only minor problems Saturday morning. He also acknowledged the low turnout, but added, "We just want to make sure that every ballot gets counted."

This year’s primaries featured contested mayoral, council, state House and Senate, and Congressional races.

Turnout for primary elections in the islands is historically low, but officials had hoped to drive more people to the polls by making the registration process easier. This is the first year that Hawaii residents could register to vote online, something tens of thousands of people took advantage of. The state also for the first time allowed voters to register on-site at early walk-in polling places.

But the efforts to streamline registration didn't translate into more residents casting ballots.

Some 19,215 Hawaii residents participated in early walk-in voting that ended Thursday. That's a decline of about 30 percent from two years ago. On Oahu, 9,925 people cast ballots in early walk-in voting. That's down from about 10,500 in 2014.

Mail-in voting was also down. As of Friday afternoon, the city had received about 83,000 mail-in ballots. In 2014, by comparison, Oahu got 88,174 primary election mail-in ballots.

HAWAII PRIMARY ELECTION TURNOUT
Year Registered Voters Voter Turnout Turnout %
1998 582,558 291,069 50%
2000 629,162 262,487 41.7%
2002 667,679 274,517 41.1%
2004 626,120 252,630 40.3%
2006 655,741 276,693 42.2%
2008 667,647 246,299 36.9%
2010 684,481 293,016 42.8%
2012 687,500 290,766 42.3%
2014 697,033 289,398 41.5%
Source: State Office of Elections

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