Precinct numbers down as more vote absentee
by Nathan Eagle – THE GARDEN ISLAND
Kaua‘i boasted the state’s strongest voter turnout Saturday, according to the final results from the state Office of Elections.
A hair more than 46 percent of registered voters here turned out for the primary election, nearly 10 percent higher than the state average and more than any single county in Hawai‘i.
The total number of registered voters on Kaua‘i, now at 38,874, has increased by more than 1,000 over the past two years. The percent who voted at the 2006 primary matched the turnout this year, but how residents voted changed.
Precinct turnout dropped from 10,211 in 2006 to 9,899 on Saturday as more Kaua‘i voters took advantage of absentee options. There were 8,039 absentee ballots cast this year compared to 7,265 at the primary two years ago. This includes early mail-in and walk-in voting.
Statewide, the percent of registered voters who cast ballots Saturday was down 5 percent from the primary in 2006 when 277,251 residents voted. When broken down, overall state turnout decreased 4 percent at the precincts and 1 percent via absentee.
Voter registration in the state has increased by nearly 12,000 over the past two years to 667,647.
Almost 42 percent of registered voters on the Big Island cast ballots Saturday, 25 percent on Maui and 37 percent in the City and County of Honolulu.
Not surprisingly, turnout was highest on the three islands with large council vacancies, tight mayoral races and candidates split over divisive community issues.
On Kaua‘i, County Parks and Recreation Director Bernard Carvalho and County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura secured enough votes to advance to the General Election on Nov. 4.
They differ on such issues as the county’s integrated solid waste management plan, which includes a proposed waste-to-energy facility that Yukimura opposes and Carvalho supports.
Kaua‘i also has all seven council seats up for election with three incumbents not seeking another two-year term. Eight candidates were eliminated from the 22-candidate field at the primary.
Heading the list of those who moved on to the general election, in order of most votes to least, were incumbents Jay Furfaro, Bill “Kaipo” Asing, Tim Bynum and Ron Kouchi.
Yukimura and fellow Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who is running unopposed for county prosecutor, were the top two vote-getters at the primary election in 2006. Furfaro and Asing were the third and fourth highest vote-getters last election, respectively.
Some 5,850 votes separate Furfaro from Bruce Pleas, this primary’s 14th-place finisher which marks the cutoff to advance to the general election where the top seven are elected.
Daryl Kaneshiro, who returned to the council this summer when Asing stepped down to temporarily serve as mayor, was the fifth highest with 6,931 votes.
Whether voters are pleased with the direction the incumbents are taking the county or whether they want stability during a time of economic uncertainty was not determined by the results.
Filling out the top seven council slots in the primary were first-time candidates Derek Kawakami and Dickie Chang, separated by a mere 11 votes but leading the eighth highest vote-getter, Lani Kawahara, by 101 votes.
On O‘ahu, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann won big but failed to secure enough votes to avoid a runoff against City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. They are split over mass transit, with Hannemann supporting a $3.7 billion steel-on-steel rail project.
Despite this major race and several other contested seats, turnout was down there 6 percent, with just 167,001 of the 450,522 registered voters casting ballots.
On the Big Island, attorney Billy Kenoi won nearly twice as many votes for mayor as the second-place candidate, Councilman Angel Pilago but a runoff will ensue in November.
Despite the mayoral race and nine contested council seats, the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots Saturday was down 1 percent from 2006. However, the county now has 95,829 registered voters, up roughly 5,400 over the past two years, and 1,402 more turned out for the election this year.
Maui’s turnout was expected to be lower where the primary ballot featured mostly state races and just three council seats up for election. Total turnout on the Valley Isle, which now has 82,422 registered voters, was down 10 percent.
Voting numbers throughout the state are expected to soar in six weeks for the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain, but how that surge trickles down into ballots cast for contested state and county races remains to be seen.
“There have been several exciting races here on O‘ahu and on the Neighbor Islands,” Congresswoman Mazie Hirono said in a statement. “It reaffirms that every vote counts. We have so much at stake and it is great to see so many people engaged.”
Look to upcoming editions of The Garden Island for a precinct-by-precinct analysis of the primary election on Kaua‘i.
For complete results, visit hawaii.gov/elections
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or email@example.com