Lucky voter could win money
KAPA‘A — What if voting entailed a chance to win some cash?
Kapa‘a resident Richard Harwood thinks it should — and he’s put his money where his mouth is.
The 43-year-old “semi-retired” contractor said yesterday that he has devised a plan to pull more people to the polls and thereby change the world.
“The light bulb went off in my head” after the Bush-Kerry presidential election in 2004, Harwood said, his first time ever voting.
He had just bought a house and saw the tax bill.
“I said, ‘Geez, I got to go vote,’” he said. “It was a protest vote against Bush. I voted for Kerry even though I didn’t want to.”
He held onto his cast ballot ID number.
“When I got home, I was standing looking at the ocean and thought, ‘Hey, this looks like a lottery ticket,’” he said.
The handyman’s original intent was to pull together $1 million to be given to a lucky voter by random selection of their cast ballot ID number.
After failing to find support in the form of financial contributors, he decided to put up $1,000 of his own money.
Lihu‘e resident Linda Shimoda won his first “private citizen free cash giveaway” after the 2006 congressional election.
“I was the ecstatic winner,” Shimoda recalled. “It was a totally feel good experience.”
Shimoda and her husband were two of nine people who mailed Harwood their ballot ID numbers for the contest.
The envelopes containing these tickets were pinned to a plywood board at Harwood’s house. His blindfolded daughter picked the winner by throwing a dart. It stuck in Shimoda’s envelope after few missed tosses at the board.
Shimoda said she learned of the non-partisan contest on a Ron Wiley program on KQNG radio.
She recalls chuckling when she and her husband mailed their envelopes to the post office box for www.thepeopleoftheearth.com, Harwood’s Web site.
“It is such a good cause — what this guy is doing,” Shimoda said. “But I didn’t expect to win.”
A few weeks later, she said, Harwood called her and told her the news.
He pulled up at her house with his family some 45 minutes later, Shimoda said, and handed her $1,000 cash.
“I was so taken aback,” she said. “I actually donated all the money … to continue the feel-good.”
Shimoda said she made a promise to Harwood to vote in every election thereafter.
“That’s all I wanted,” he said.
Harwood, who was born in Washington, D.C., has lived on Kaua‘i the past seven years following a move from Guam.
“I’m just trying to be patriotic … trying to help my country,” he said. “If all of us got enough money together … everyone would vote.”
The more people that vote, the more representative this democracy will be, he said.
“If we have everyone vote, we’d change the country,” Harwood said. “Since U.S. policy changes the world … boom, we’d change the world.”
Harwood said he used to be “lazy” in terms of not voting, but realized “we’re giving our country away.”
Shimoda, too, said she will and has encouraged others to join them.
“Get out and vote,” she said. “If you want to have fun, send your stubs to Richard.”
The General Election is Nov. 4.
Harwood videotaped the 2006 experience. This and more information is posted on his Web site at www.thepeopleoftheearth.com.
Cast ballot IDs can be sent to 5155A Laipo Rd., Kapa‘a, 96746.
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or email@example.com