Absentee voter turn out large; interest in primary election high

Over 6,500 absentee ballots have been received as of Friday morning, according to counts released Friday by County Clerk Peter Nakamura.

Nakamura said 3,663 walk-in absentee voters cast their ballots, and 2,924 mail-in absentee ballots have been received.

He said the two sets of absentee ballots will make up the first print-out of results in the primary election. The first release is expected after the polls close across the state at 6 p.m.

The polls were set to open across Kaua’i at 7 a.m. this morning, and are set to close at 6 p.m.

Every voter standing in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote, though the doors to the polling locations will close at 6 p.m sharp, Nakamura said.

Nakamura said absentee voters include the elderly and home-bound, plus voters who find it convenient or are working, off island or otherwise busy on election day.

“I was ready to make my decision now. It’s simpler than going to the polls,” said Henry Perez, general manager of Lawai Beach Resort, who added that his busy schedule may have him working out of town today.

Absentee/walk-in voters are finding some changes to the set up of the polling area in the historic Kauai County Building. Applications for walk-in voting are distributed near the entrance instead of in the elections office, and 26 voter booths are located in the old County Transportation/Kauai Bus office instead of lined up next to the staircase in the lobby.

At the poll station just past the left-hand side of the staircase, voters show an identification card to verify their names and current addresses. This year, instead of looking through a poll book that lists the 37,000 names of voters, elections staff can access a voter’s history with a statewide voter registration computer system hooked up to the Internet. Staff can see when and where a person voted in the state.

At the ballot issuing station, an election official will present a ballot placed in a paper sleeve to protect anonymity. The ballot will vary according to district and precinct. There are three districts on Kaua’i. Voting is done with pen and paper; in Hawai’i, a vote is considered a completely blackened oval.

After voting, the voter feeds the ballot into an electronic scanner that reads both sides of the paper simultaneously.

The primary election is held to nominate candidates who will represent each political party, including “nonpartisan” candidates, in the general election.

Kaua’i County organizes county elections under the single party primary system. The party affiliations of county council and mayoral candidates are not listed and a person can vote for candidates in any party regardless of their own affiliation. For example, a registered Libertarian voter may vote for candidates in the Free Energy party. Party affiliations aren’t recorded by the county elections office.

For state and federal offices, each party’s candidates are organized in color-coded boxes and listed on one piece of paper (the order and colors were chosen by random drawing). It is up to the voter to support only one party by voting on one party ballot, said a County Elections Office staff member. On the opposite side of the paper is the ballot for county council.

The counting machine will sound an alert for voter errors: Voting for more than one party; voting for more candidates than allowed; or entering a blank ballot, another County Elections Office staffer said. It is up to the voter to have the machine accept the ballot or return it so the voter can redo their vote. It is allowed to vote for fewer candidates than required.

Sometimes, people will “protest vote,” or purposely vote incorrectly, a staff member said.

The scanner counts the number of ballots received, but the results for each candidate won’t be available until election day.

State and county elections staff and election day officials will count primary election votes on the Kaua’i Community College campus today. Election officials include “poll watchers,” people referred by the political parties to ensure the process follows rules and regulations and to maintain the integrity of elections procedures.

“I only voted for whom I know and who I familiarized myself with; I didn’t vote for seven total,” said Brigitte Rivera, a Kaua’i Police Department dispatcher who cast an absentee ballot.

Elections division staff agreed that educating oneself about candidates and their party affiliations can make the voting process faster and easier.

Absentee voting sites for the primary election opened Monday, Sept. 9.

The last day to register for the upcoming general election is Monday, Oct. 7, and the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail for the general election is Tuesday, Oct. 29. Application forms for absentee voting are available at the County Elections office at the Historic County Building, U.S. Post Offices, state libraries and in most state and county offices.

For more information, access the elections Web site at www.state.hi.us/elections or call the County of Kaua’i’s Election Division at 241-6350.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

TGI Editor Chris Cook contributed to this report.


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