LIHU’E – With the exception of 1994, fewer Kauaians went to the polls during
elections in the 1990s.
And there are no signs the trend will end this
Political observers here say voter disinterest could affect the
outcome of this year’s elections by forcing candidates to modify their campaign
strategies to reach a smaller pool of voters.
The smaller election turnout
on Kaua’i coincides with growing voter apathy among Asians and Pacific
Islanders in Hawai’i. A smaller percentage of them voted in the 1998 elections
than in the 1994 election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Up or grabs
this fall are a U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives seat, three seats
in the state House of Representatives race, all seven positions on the Kaua’i
County Council, two on the state Board of Education and all nine seats on the
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.
In 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1998,
the number of voters dropped from 80 to 74 percent. The exception was the 1994
general election, in which 81 percent of the 27,719 registered voters on
Kaua’i went to the polls.
In ’94, Maryanne Kusaka squared off in the
mayoral race against Jimmy Tehada, who had beaten incumbent JoAnn Yukimura, a
strong advocate for controlled growth, in the primary election.
1990 and 1998, the number of registered voters from three election districts on
Kaua’i increased from 27,162 to 33,063, according to election officials.
During the 1998 election, 24,366 cast votes. Election district13, which covers
Kawaihau and Lihu’e districts, and election district 14, which covers south
and west Kaua’i, both boasted a 75 percent turnout—the highest on the
Election district 12, comprised of the North Shore, came in last
with a 70 percent turnout, with 5,825 of 8,354 voters going to the
Kaua’i election officials wouldn’t speculate on the reasons for the
drop-off in voters, saying only that in some years the turnout is small because
voters don’t like the slate of candidates.
Residents also don’t vote when
they feel the election-year issues won’t affect them, observers say.
contrast, voters on Kaua’i came out in force in the 1980s, when the average
voter turnout was 80 percent.
A smaller percentage of Asians and Pacific
Islanders in Hawai’i voted in the 1998 elections than in the 1994 election,
according to the Census. The percentage of those voters dropped from 39 percent
in 1994 to 32 percent in 1998.
The decrease mirrored a national trend. The
percentage of all Americans who voted fell from 48 percent in1994 to 45 percent
in 1998, the lowest rate recorded by the Census.
The only racial group
nationwide that increased its voting percentage was blacks, from 39 percent in
1994 to 42 percent in 1998.
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached
at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and [