Polling machine being shipped to Ni’ihau for primary

HONOLULU (AP) – For the first time in decades, voters on the tiny island of Ni’ihau will be able to cast ballots in person rather than exclusively by mail.

A voting machine and ballots will be flown to the island by helicopter, Kaua’i County officials said.

Ni’ihau has 81 registered voters among its total population of 160 residents. The primary is Saturday.

Officials decided to have elections by machine after holding several discussions with residents on the privately owned island, Kaua’i County deputy clerk Ernest Pasion said.

“We will be shipping the machine and ballots over there and back by helicopter,” Pasion said. “It’s another place that is due a regular polling place.”

By contrast, all-mail voting will be used in Kalaupapa, based on a meeting between the district’s 69 registered voters and state elections officials.

“They’ve agreed to go all mail,” said Rex Quidilla, a state Elections Office spokesman.

It hasn’t been resolved what time polling will close on Ni’ihau. Polling originally was scheduled to close at noon to allow time for ballots to be brought back.

“It depends on how many come to the polls,” Pasion said.

Not everyone is pleased with the system.

Bruce Robinson, who owns the island with his brother, Keith, said he believes the government could better use the money. Robinson’s helicopter will be used to ferry the machine and ballots to Ni’ihau.

“If they want to spend the money on it or not, that’s up to them, but it’s been done in the past by absentee (voting),” Robinson said. “It’s way cheaper, way faster. Everything worked out better, and that was the end of it.”

The Robinson family has owned Ni’ihau, home to the last all-Hawaiian community, since 1864, when Elizabeth Sinclair bought the island from the Hawaiian monarchy and moved her family there from New Zealand.

On the Net:

State Office of Elections, http://www.state.hi.us/elections/

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