Early voting starts as Nov. 4 Nears

Kapa‘a resident Joe Calhoun didn’t waste any time getting to the County Annex basement in Lihu‘e yesterday to vote early.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve made up my mind.”

Calhoun joined 360 others in casting ballots two weeks before Election Day, when the majority of the nation lines up at the polls to decide a number of local, state and national races.

Yesterday Kaua‘i County began walk-in voting for the general election, which continues from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Nov. 1 (with the exception of Sunday).

Walk-in is open to all registered voters and requires no additional paperwork, making it an attractive option for anyone with a busy schedule on Nov. 4.

Westsider Maria Valenciano, mother of 5th Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano, said early voting is a convenience she can’t pass up. 

“We like to get this leisure way of coming down to Lihu‘e,” Valenciano, 81, said outside the Annex.

She, like other voters yesterday, said this election season has had a different energy, and along with it a responsibility to participate.

If the primary on Sept. 20 and recent voter registration numbers are any indication of the turnout to come, increased participation is not unlikely.

Kaua‘i’s primary turnout was the state’s strongest, according to the final results from the state Office of Elections.

About 46 percent of registered voters here cast primary ballots, nearly 10 percent higher than the state average and more than any single county in Hawai‘i.

Since then, the total number of registered voters has increased by 1,500, from 38,874 to 40,323. That jump exceeds the 1,000-voter increase during the previous two years.

While registration and voting on Kaua‘i were up in the primary, precinct turnout dropped by 300 to 9,899, as more Kaua‘i voters took advantage of absentee options.

This year there were 8,037 early votes cast — walk-in and absentee combined — compared to 7,265 at the primary two years ago.

County Clerk Peter Nakamura said general elections usually have 10 percent higher turnout than primaries, and he expects to see a comparable increase when all votes are accounted for on Nov. 4.

This year is unusual, he added, as the ballot contains more offices than the typical presidential year election. Voters will choose the island’s next mayor and county prosecutor, fill seven County Council seats, elect state and national legislators, decide on six local charter amendments and two state constitutional amendments, and pick a president.

For Valenciano, live and televised debates were key in the decision-making process, from the presidential candidates down to the proposed Constitutional Convention question.

“You have to really listen to the debates,” she said. “We need to watch so we can decide.”

Vikki Secretario, of Kapa‘a, also got in her vote yesterday before leaving on a trip, but she was less than enthused about the options.

Secretario called the presidential race in Hawai‘i a “done deal,” and only voted for two council candidates, instead of the seven votes allotted.

“I want two new faces,” she said.

Lihu‘e resident Kalani Dawson said early voting is his preferred method — one he’s stuck with since 1990.

Dawson passed over the amendment questions for lack of familiarity.

“I never know all the things they were going to have on the ballot,” he said.

Some confusion for voters, Nakamura said, has been with the amendments. For the Kaua‘i County Charter amendments, a blank vote is not counted toward the overall outcome. For state amendments, however, blank votes are added to the “no” tally.

As for the presidential race, either outcome will make history — something early voters yesterday acknowledged readily.

“We’re going to have a Hawai‘i president or a wahine vice president,” Dawson said.

Early voting:

• The annex has 30 booths and six electronic voting machines.

•  Languages available include English, Japanese, Chinese and Ilocano.

•  Walk-in voting is one of two early options, in addition to mail-in absentee ballots.

• To vote early, visit the County Annex basement between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. now through Nov. 1 (except for Sunday). You can also request an absentee ballot until Tuesday and return it by mail by Nov. 4.

• For more information, call 241-6350.

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