County officials puzzled by low voter registration

Kaua’i county elections officials are scratching their heads about the low number of people registered to vote in the Saturday, Sept. 21 primary election.

Not since the 1996 elections have so few people been registered, and the 30,518 voters registered for the primary this year reverses a 10-year, five-election trend of growth in numbers of registered voters on Kaua’i.

County Clerk Peter Nakamura doesn’t have a clue why there are less voters registered for this year’s primary election than for any contest since 1996, especially since his elections crew deputized around 100 people as voter registrars.

As a result of the large number of voter registrars, elections officials expected a significant jump in the number of registered voters, Nakamura said.

That didn’t happen.

In fact, those deputies depleted supplies of registration forms to the point where elections officials had to call the deputies to ask for forms back if the deputies weren’t going to use them to register voters.

There are times when numbers of registered voters climb in between the primary and general election, and the clerk’s office will continue encouraging eligible adults to register and vote.

State residents who are U.S. citizens can register to vote when they are age of 16 or older, but must be 18 or older by election day to vote.

“We always hope for more people to register to vote,” Nakamura said.

Kaua’i’s claim to fame as the Hawai’i county with the greatest percentage of registered voters who also cast ballots took a severe hit in the 2000 elections, when 34,652 people were registered to vote, but only 22,217 turned out.

That 64.1 percent voter turnout was still better than the statewide average of 58.2 percent.

In every election year since 1978, with the exception of 1992 when the primary election was weeks after Hurricane ‘Iniki rumbled across Kaua’i, the county has either tied or bettered statewide voter turnout percentages (please see the chart).

Kaua’i County Primary Elections

1978 – 2002

Registered Actually Voted

1978 19,665 16,070

1980 21,732 17,868 1982 22,563 18,222

1984 23,258 19,395

1986 22,824 19,448

1988 25,741 21,615

1990 27,162 21,626 1992 26,771 19,864 1994 27,719 22,394

1996 30,009 21,816 1998 33,063 24,366 2000 34,652 22,217 2002 30,518

Source: State elections Web site, www.state.hi.us/elections

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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