Voting from home isn’t popular

LIHU’E – If you want to vote in September’s primary and/or November’s general elections without interrupting your day-to-day life, have no fear. Requests for absentee ballots are now being accepted.

Voters statewide may mail their requests directly to the county in which they reside, including Kaua`i.

Registered Hawaiian voters may vote in either election. But voters who want absentee ballots must state which ballot they wish to receive or if they want both general and primary ballots.

Absentee voters may request ballots by mail or pick one up at an absentee walk-in site from Sept. 11 to Sept. 21.

“We’ve been accepting absentee requests by mail since July 25, and we will accept them until Sept. 16,” said Aisha A.C. Wang, a state voter education specialist in Pearl City.

Wang said most counties will have the walk-in sites at or near their offices of elections. In Kaua`i, the location is the entryway of the historic county building on Rice Street.

The in-person sign-ups will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m..

Wang said absentee voting isn’t exactly sweeping Hawai`i. She expressed surprise that in some mainland states, more people vote absentee than at the polls.

“Actually, last election (in Hawai’i), absentee voting was real low—between 15 and 20 percent” of the total voter turnout, Wang said. “I think the people are skeptical about their vote-counting if they don’t walk in and see it tabulated.” Kaua`i followed the statewide trend of preferring the polls, according to the county’s elections administrator, Lyndon Yoshioka.

In 1998, during the primaries, 5,489 people filed absentee ballots, while 14,514 voted at the polls. In the general election, the numbers were 6,774 by absentee and 17,592 at the polls, Yoshioka said.

He wasn’t certain why Hawaiian voters tended to go to the polls more than their mainland counterparts.

“That’s an issue we’ve been trying to figure out for the longest time,” said Yoshioka, who assumed his job in 1995.

Absentee voting has been increasing slightly, though, “maybe because of the convenience,” he said. “You can vote in the privacy of your own home. And many people get the (election) day off, and they can vote without spending an hour or two waiting in line.” Part of the reason absentee voting has increased according to Kaua`i County Clerk Peter A. Nakamura is that requirements have been eased.

“Over the years they’ve changed some of the requirements. You used to have to have a reason (or excuse),” Nakamura said.

And he added, Election Day in Hawai`i is a day off for federal, state and county workers.

A bigger problem in Hawai`i, at least in national elections such as this year, seems to be the perception that because of network television’s habit of projecting the winner in presidential races, everything is over before Hawaiians even vote.

People might “feel their vote’s not really counting,” Wang speculated.

Requests for absentee ballots are available in the Wikiwiki registration form and can be downloaded from the Office of Elections website at www.state.hi.us/elections. Additional information locally is available at 241-6350.

Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or dwilken@pulitzer.net

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