Children in public and private schools across Kaua’i and Hawai’i for several days ending Tuesday voted at public libraries, at their schools, at home, at places of business, and at polling places while their adult chaperones did the same.
The difference was that while adults used black pens on paper to vote either at the polls, or at absentee walk-in polling places or via U.S. mail before election day, the children voted using computer keyboards and mice.
And, of course, the adult votes counted for real, helping to decide winners and losers in races for U.S. House of Representatives, governor, state Legislature, mayor, and County Council, and in various proposals to amend the state Constitution and Kauai County Charter.
Kids Voting this year moved into cyberspace, as Hawai’i became the first state in the nation to conduct elections totally online, for those not yet of legal voting age.
Over 180,000 children received voting passwords from teachers, and over 58,000 exercised their right to vote between Tuesday, Oct. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 5. That represented a 32.2 percent turnout.
Kaua’i’s youngsters chose Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono for governor, agreeing with other children statewide that she would make the best choice for governor, although the adults chose former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle in the election that counted.
Young people of Kaua’i agreed with a majority of adults that County Council Vice Chair Bryan Baptiste should be the county’s new mayor, also, 2,581 votes to 1,979 for Council Chair Ron Kouchi.
The County Council makeup if the children voted for real would be somewhat different than the choices made by their adult counterparts.
Kaua’i’s young voters picked Jay Furfaro first, Mel Rapozo second, and incumbent Jimmy Tokioka third, followed by fellow incumbent Daryl Kaneshiro, Erick Moon, JoAnn Yukimura and John F. Barretto.
In Kids Voting on Kaua’i, Councilmember Kaipo Asing, who normally finishes at or near the top in council voting, would be off the council. He finished 10th.
Eighth through 14th, in this order, were George Menor, Ernest Moniz, Asing, Ray Chuan, Ray Paler, Rhoda Libre and Joe Munechika.
The top seven in order from first to seventh in the adult election for County Council were Yukimura, Asing, Tokioka, Furfaro, Kaneshiro, Rapozo and Munechika.
Kaua’i’s young voters concurred with adult voters in favor of County Councilmember Gary Hooser for state Senate, and incumbent state Reps. Mina Morita, Ezra Kanoho and Bertha Kawakami.
They chose Kelly Takaya King as the Maui representative to the state Board of Education, the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, and voted “no” to the adult-ballot, Constitutional-amendment question, about using special purpose revenue bonds to finance private-school repairs and renovations.
Even within individual families, the ways children voted sometimes differed.
In one Kaua’i family, one child voted in the school computer lab, another wanted to vote in the privacy of her home so classmates wouldn’t look over her shoulder to see who she voted for, while another wanted to exercise her right to vote at the polls while her father exercised his.
American Savings Bank since 1998 has sponsored Kids Voting Hawaii, to encourage students and parents to educate themselves about the issues and candidates, then make their voices heard by voting.
“Kids Voting Hawaii marries technology, education and civic responsibility in a way that is fun and interactive for both students and parents,” said Constance H. Lau, president and chief executive officer of American Savings Bank.
The Internet voting technology was developed for Kids Voting Hawaii through a volunteer partnership between Commercial Data Systems and Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI).
“It is the first Internet voting system to be rolled out on a statewide basis,” said Sterling Yee of HEI, chair of the Kids Voting Hawaii technology committee.
“It’s also a great example of collaboration between many people who are motivated by a sense of community, not money. We have our challenges, but the attitudes of those involved are so refreshing,” Yee said.
The purpose of Kids Voting Hawaii is to prepare all school-age youth with the information and experience to participate as citizens and sustain American democracy through deliberate instruction in voter education.
At the schools and polling places, volunteers from American Savings Bank and the island’s various Rotary clubs provided program information, materials and assistance.
In the general elections of 1996, 1998 and 2000, over 125,000 Hawai’i students voted for major candidates and on questions on paper ballots at their parents’ polling places.
The state Office of Elections, Commercial Data Systems, INETS, AT&T, Aloha Airlines, Advanced Computer Consulting, state Department of Education, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools and Alpha Delta Kappa Women Educators Sorority were among the partners contributing to Kids Voting Hawaii.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).