Polling place changes impact thousands of voters

Precinct consolidation, or the paring of polling places in the county from 21 to eight for the upcoming special elections, impacts thousands of voters.

Registered voters numbered over 21,000 at the 13 polling places during the general election that won’t be polling places during the special elections, and at those 13 polling places 8,775 people cast votes in the general election.

The special elections will serve to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (D, 2nd district, Neighbor Islands and rural O’ahu), with the first, set for Saturday, Nov. 30, to fill her unexpired term, through mid-January, 2003. Mink died in late September in Honolulu, from complications associated with pneumonia.

Folks living in Ha’ena will have the longest drive to the polls, some 13 miles, to Kilauea Neighborhood Center. All of Lihu’e, from Hanama’ulu to Puhi, will have to vote at Kauai High School cafeteria if they choose to vote on election day at the polls.

That’s 7,608 registered voters from Hanama’ulu to Puhi, and 2,910 who cast ballots at Lihu’e-area polling places on general election day.

The consolidated precincts will have large numbers of precinct workers in anticipation of large crowds on the dates of the special elections, said Peter Nakamura, county clerk.

Voters can help ease election-day congestion at the polls by voting early, either by mail-in or walk-in absentee polling, he said. Walk-in absentee balloting begins tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Lihu’e Historic County Building.

Folks on Ni’ihau, though, have only one option if they plan to vote: absentee mail-in.

Niihau School won’t be a polling place for the special elections, either on Saturday, Nov. 4, or Saturday, Jan. 4, when voters select someone to fill Mink’s two-year term she won re-election to at the general election last week.

County elections officials will save on helicopter charges associated with delivering to and retrieving from the privately owned island ballots, ballot boxes and other voting materials, Nakamura said.

During the primary election, 35 of the 85 registered voters on Ni’ihau showed up at the school to vote. On general election day, 51 of 90 registered voters voted at the school.

In other efforts to save money, Nakamura said the county won’t use the electronic ballot boxes that tabulate votes, going retro for the special elections to locked wooden ballot boxes.

That is also the reason the ballots from each special election won’t be counted until the day after each election, in Honolulu, and results therefore won’t be available until the day after each election, so won’t be published in The Garden Island until the Monday following each election.

During the primary and general elections, Kaua’i voters cast ballots from Hanalei to Kekaha. During the upcoming special elections, precinct consolidation means the polling places will be from Kilauea to Waimea.

From west to north, the polling places for both special elections will be Waimea Neighborhood Center, Eleele School cafeteria, Kato Gym at Kalaheo School, Koloa Neighborhood Center, Kauai High School cafeteria, Kapaa Middle School cafeteria, St. Catherine School cafeteria, and Kilauea Neighborhood Center.

Green cards will be sent to registered voters next week, informing them of both special elections and their polling places, according to a spokesperson in the state Office of Elections on O’ahu.

Those polling places active during both the primary and general elections on Kaua’i and Ni’ihau, but not open for voting during the upcoming special elections, including Niihau School, Kekaha Neighborhood Center, Kaumakani Neighborhood Center, Hanapepe Recreation Center, Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, Koloa School cafeteria, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School cafeteria, Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, King Kaumuali’i Elementary School cafeteria, Kapaa Neighborhood Center, Kapaa Elementary School cafeteria, Anahola Hawaiian Homes Clubhouse and Hanalei School cafeteria.

There are 38 people running, including three Kaua’i residents, in the first special election, set for Saturday, Nov. 30, to fill Mink’s unexpired current term.

As of yesterday, there were seven official candidates for the Saturday, Jan. 4 special election to fill Mink’s two-year term, including current state Reps. Ed Case, a Democrat, and Bob McDermott, a Republican, along with Hanalei resident Gregory “Iims” Goodwin, who filed as a Green Party candidate.

Case, Goodwin, Republican Walter R. Barnes of Wailua Homesteads, and Libertarian Jeff Mallan of Kapa’a have all filed to run in the first special election.

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

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