Officials Seek to Improve Hawaii Voter Turnout

Wally Kohashikawa
Wally Kohashikawa
Denise De Costa
Denise De Costa
Michael Augusta
Michael Augusta

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Census Bureau reported last year that Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout in the nation for the 2004 presidential election. Local efforts are underway to improve that ranking.

Honolulu is a busy modern city with busy modern people who don't have a lot of time for things like voting. City officials hope increased absentee voting will help improve voter turnout.

Some voters say they have found a way to beat the crowd at their polling place.

"You don't have to worry about getting to the polls on time and that kind of stuff. You can get it all wrapped up real soon." says Wally Kohashikawa.

The City Clerk's office will send 236,000 absentee ballot mailers out to households across Oahu. Registered voters can use the forms to apply for absentee ballots which will let them cast their votes by mail.

"We're trying to encourage voter participation. And it is the first time we've ever sent so many voter application forms to the whole island." says City Clerk Denise De Costa.

In 2004, 70,000 people on Oahu requested absentee ballots. Of those, 87% cast their votes by mail.

"There's a growing number of people who are busy who are looking for convenience, who are looking for ways to save time." says De Costa.

Some voters insist on following the tried-and-true method of voting in person.

"We're retired. We're from the old school, Roosevelt and Truman days of voting. It s more of a pleasure walking up to the polls, it makes you feel more genuine" says Michael Augusta.

In the last election, 35% of voters used absentee ballots, but election officials hope that number will increase this year.

"It gives a voter an option of voting by absentee mail. Then he doesn t have to get in his car, go out on election day and wait in long lines." says De Costa.

It used to be only voters who were sick or otherwise physically incapable of going to a polling place in person were allowed to vote by mail. But the law was changed to allow any registered voter to take advantage of absentee ballots.