LIHUE – It was a momentous occasion on Wednesday for 18-year-old Cov Ratcliffe.
He registered to vote for the first time.
And it was a pretty simple task, thanks to the convenience of a drive-through or walk-up registration booth in front of the Historic County Building. The booth is set up through today to make it easy for Ratcliffe and others who want to prepare to exercise their civic duty.
“I’ve watched my dad go to the polls,” Ratcliffe said. “Voting matters. People don’t understand that. I wish everybody would. My economics teacher advocated for us to get out and voice your opinion. The people in office are the ones who make the laws and they can make a difference in what happens to our future.”
More than half of the residents of Kauai are registered to vote in the upcoming election. In the 2012 primary election, 39,834 people were registered to vote. This year, that number is up slightly, to 40,777. The drive-through booth is hoping to boost that number before today’s deadline to register to vote before the Aug. 9 primary.
“I really appreciate the staff taking on this during a busy time,” said Lyndon Yoshioka, administrator for the Elections Division of the Office of the County Clerk. “I’m curious to see how the public responds to this service.”
It’s been more than a decade since Kauai voters have been offered the opportunity to register to vote in this unique fashion. It used to be offered in the 1980s and ‘90s by nonprofit groups until funds dried up. It was discontinued after participation dwindled, but Wednesday voters were eager to register and kept representatives busy during the morning.
Louis Landsman, a 30-year-old resident of Kilauea, plans to vote in the primary. It will be his first time ever voting.
“It seems like you’re either voting for one or the other hand of the same entity,” Landsman said.
Eighteen-year old Spencer Duvauchelle said he watched excerpts of the televised Senate debate Monday night and thinks the candidates have some good ideas. He said he learned while studying at Kamehameha Schools how Hawaiians during the territory days didn’t take advantage of the chance to vote. He believes it is up to him to help determine the future.
“I’m a native Hawaiian and want to make a difference in what happens in the state. I get to help decide,” Duvauchelle said.
One of his main concerns is the future of Social Security benefits.
“I’m worried about the kupuna after they can’t work anymore. They have to live off their Social Security, which isn’t a lot,” Duvauchelle added.
Ratcliffe, a Kauai High School graduate, plans to attend California State East Bay in the fall. While away, he intends to keep a close eye on the developments of his homeland Kauai.
“Right now there are arguments about college tuition in the governor’s race and that is one of my main concerns,” Ratcliffe said. “But I’m also interested in voting about other things, the GMOs and the County Council. Everywhere you look there are 20 signs for the candidates.”
In person drive-up registration continues today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Historic County Building.