KAPAA — As a registered voter in her 20s, Alexandra Mink-Flacco says she isn’t afraid to buck the trend.
This year, the 21-year-old Wailua Homesteads resident says she wants to ensure her votes count.
“I came to vote, because people around my age aren’t active enough in voting, because we have a large elderly population and they seem to be stuck in their ways and what not, so I think, as a member of the under 25 or so community, we should get out more, so I’m trying to set an example and get my voice out,” Mink-Flacco said after casting her ballot at Kapaa Middle School.
On Tuesday, Mink-Flacco was one of thousands of general election voters who made their way to the polls, and in some cases, braved long lines and a few light drizzles to cast their ballots.
As of press time on Tuesday, County elections administrator Lyndon Yoshioka said a total of 3,384 residents participated in early voting this year. Of the 10,712 absentee ballots that were sent out this year, about 8,466 of them, or 79 percent of all sent ballots, were processed by 5:30 p.m.
Some county voters on Tuesday said certain issues brought them to the polls, while others said they simply wanted to exercise their unfettered right to vote.
“I just wanted to put my vote in, but there weren’t really any big issues for me,” Wailua Homesteads resident Jerrilee Largusa said as she walked into Kapaa Middle School to vote with her two daughters in tow.
Even before she cast her ballot, Mink-Flacco said there were three main things on her mind when she walked into the voting booth: environmental protection, same-sex marriage and the advancement of women in political office.
Fellow Wailua Homesteads resident Jennifer Schwartz said Tuesday’s election marked the first time she has voted.
“Mainly, there’s some major issues that I think happened in the past year that made me feel motivated to come out and vote this year,” Schwartz said before casting her vote at Kapaa Middle School.
Schwartz, who moved to Kauai in 2007, said the yearlong battle on the county law regulating pesticides and genetically modified organisms for large commercial agricultural companies, Bill 2491, now Ordinance 960, primarily motivated her to come out and vote.
“I’d like to see more people who are supportive of initiatives like that, so that’s the direction I’m voting,” Schwartz said.
Tony Nadarisay said he and his family came out to the polls because it is important they support those they feel will make a difference in government.
“It’s our obligation to vote,” the Kapaa man said after he cast his ballot at Kapaa Elementary School. “If we don’t vote, we cannot grumble, right? So, we better vote.”
Nadarisay said he was most interested in the races for governor and Kauai County Council, but chose to keep his choices to himself. When asked if he thought people are more engaged this year, Nadarisay said he thought so.
“There’s so much things that is going wrong with the government,” he said. “I mean, a lot of people say, ‘They should have done this, they should have done that.’”
During the primary election in August, 47 percent of registered voters on Kauai and Niihau, or 19,366 people, cast ballots, marking the highest rate for the county in 12 years. Kauai’s voter turnout in the primary was also the highest among all Hawaii counties.
Charlie Grotsky, who voted Tuesday afternoon at Kapaa Elementary, along with his friend Marc Grabinsky, said he feels people are not only more engaged here on Kauai, but all over the county.
“For better or worse,” Grabinsky added. “People are participating and that’s what it’s all about in this county — participating and getting involved in the political process.”
Grotsky said he came out for one main reason: to vote for Dustin Barca.
“It’s a protest vote against Mayor Carvalho for (vetoing) the (Kauai County Council’s) vote on pesticide regulation,” he said. “That was one of the biggest things that brought me here, plus Brian Schatz and his stance on environmental issues.”
Grabinsky echoed similar reasons for coming out and said Election Day is the “one time to actually make a statement.”
By 3 p.m., about 1,000 voters had made their way to the polls at the Kapaa Elementary precinct, according to an election official.
At King Kaumualii Elementary School, Hanamaulu resident Heidi Prigge said she would like to see the County Council move in a different direction.
“I want to make sure I do my part and make sure that the people who I want to get into the County Council get in — I want to make a difference, so I’ve got to do my part,” Prigge said. “I hope that a few of the people who I voted for will make a change because they’re different people than who are in office already.”
Puhi resident Nicole Sievers said she came out to vote to help bolster voter turnout numbers that are usually low in the primary election.
“I think the County Council race was the most important one, for me,” Sievers said after casting her vote at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. “They seem to make a lot more rules than the mayor, so it was really important to me to put people on it who believe in some of the issues that are important to me, particularly agricultural ones. I think the County Council especially had some good, fresh blood coming in and a few people that I was excited about; otherwise, I wasn’t too excited about some of the other races, to be honest.”
Lihue resident Jane Kato said she doesn’t take her right to vote for granted and paid close attention to the County Council, mayor and governor races.
“People die for the right to vote, so I think it’s important that we vote,” Kato said after casting her ballot at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi. “I mean, look at history lessons — people literally die for the right to vote, so why should we say, ‘I’m too busy to vote.’ That’s why I came.”