With the last ballot cast, primary election day comes to a close
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - All polls have officially closed across the state and officials are knee-deep in the process of counting up the ballots on Saturday after a day of hiccups in the polling booths.
While many Hawaii voters encountered short lines — or no lines — at polling places statewide on a primary election day, voters still had mixed reviews of their experience at the polls.
According to officials, as of 3 p.m., 34 percent of 741,007 registered voters in the state turned out to vote. Back in the 2016 general election, only 27 percent of registered voters had come out by that time.
Polls opened up statewide at 7 a.m. and few major problems were reported.
Officials reported that scanners at McKinley High School, Radford High School and Jefferson Middle School were having minor issues.
Several voters also noted that an electronic voting machine at Lehua Elementary wasn't working properly.
"I was in within an hour of the time they opened this morning and what really concerns me is that they don't have their act together," said Paul Dennett, who voted at Lehua Elementary School.
"The young man in charge tried to locate an access code, but couldn't so I had to give up and do it the way that people in WWII did it — I had to draw lines on the ballot," Dennett said.
Dennett said that he had similar problems at the polling place before and plans to vote at Honolulu Hale next year.
Despite the elementary school's hiccups, the day is running smoothly, despite the fact the state is short hundreds of volunteers during the first election with same-day voter registration.
It wasn't immediately clear how many were taking advantage of the new option.
Over on the Big Island, several residents said they were confused about where and how to vote at the Pahoa precinct, but officials said there were no major problems at the polling site.
They say people in two precincts who lived in the lava zone got mail-in ballots, but were still allowed to vote Saturday if they hadn't mailed it in.
Cheryl Teegarden of Kakaako said that her experience voting Saturday morning couldn't have been easier.
"It went really smoothly, actually I expected it to be just a little bit busier but there was no crowd," Teegarden said. She also said that there many fewer people at the polls this year, and she plans sending in her vote via absentee ballot.
Election officials say they were helped by the fact that more than half of the voters were absentee, more than 160,000 voters either walked or mailed in their ballots.
Savanah Oviedo was a first-time voter this year, but registered early for the primary election.
"It's my civic duty," she said. "It's so simple. I think it's important to have your voice be heard."
Melanie Lau, of Kakaako, was also a first-time voter Saturday.
"I was a little nervous going in, but it was faster than expected," she said.
There are about 741,000 registered voters for the primary election, up by about 20,000 from two years ago. But how many people actually come out to the polls is always a big question mark in Hawaii — with its worst-in-the-nation voter turnout rate.
Elections officials said over 166,000 people had voted early — by absentee ballot or walk-in — by the end of the week, accounting for just over 22 percent of registered voters.
The 2016 primary election saw a new low in voter turnout, with just 35 percent of registered voters coming out to cast a ballot. Turnout in the 2014 primary election was 42 percent.
The biggest new wild card this election: Same-day voter registration.
It's worked in other places to boost voter turnout, and onlookers are hoping it does the same in the islands.
Here's how same-day registration works:
- Head to your assigned polling place determined by your address.
- At your polling place, show your identification.
- You can use your drivers license, state or military ID, or passport. Also acceptable are a current utility bill or bank statement.
- Once you show your ID, you'll be asked to fill out an affidavit and state officials will confirm you're at the right polling place.
- Finally, you'll be handed a ballot to cast your vote.
Something else that might help voter turnout: There are a number of dramatic contests before voters this year.
And the domination of the Democratic Party in Hawaii politics means the outcome of this year's major races — for governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. House District 1 — could all but be decided at the end of primary election night.
Gov. David Ige is fighting off a fierce Democratic primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as he seeks to secure a second term. And there are crowded fields of well-known Democratic candidates vying to be lieutenant governor and running for the congressional seat vacated by Hanabusa.
On the Republican side, there are three top contenders in the governor's race: Longtime state lawmaker John Carroll, state Rep. Andria Tupola and former state Education Department executive Ray L'Heureux.
Heading into the primary elections, Ige can tout a slight lead in the polls — a stark contrast to where he was at the beginning of the year. Polling conducted in March showed Ige trailing Hanabusa by a significant margin, as the false missile alert was fresh in voters' minds.
But both candidates remain convinced they've done the work needed to come out ahead Saturday.
There were out sign waving on Saturday in hopes of garnering a bit of last-minute support before heading to campaign parties in the evening to wait for election results to come in.
The last-minute appeal to voters comes after a spate of PAC spending in the gubernatorial race. Political action committees also spent heavily in the race for lieutenant governor and in some small contests — a fact that some candidates raced concerns about.
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