LIHUE — After the dust settled and the votes were counted early Sunday morning, one thing was clear: voter turnout for the island was the lowest since Hawaii became a state in 1959.
“When the polls opened, we had the feeling it was going to be a slow day because of the (low) call activity we experienced,” said Lyndon Yoshioka, county elections administrator. “It indicated that it wasn’t going to be a busy day, and the numbers reflected that.”
For the County of Kauai, 35.5 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. That’s 15,273 out of 43,036 registered voters.
The previous low in 2012 attracted 39.2 percent of voters. This is the second time in primary voting history which saw the voter turnout on the island below 40 percent.
Yoshioka said each one of the island’s 15 polling places experienced slower than normal activity Saturday. He emphasized registered voters as well as people who normally don’t vote need to make an effort to cast their ballots.
“The one thing we would like to note is that our office does put a lot of time, effort and resources to get these services out there,” Yoshioka said. “We obviously like more people to take advantage, not to mention there are hundreds of people across the island who have devoted their time to provide support to the polling on election day.”
The state also suffered its lowest voter turnout in history. Counts show only 34.8 percent of registered voters took to the polls on election day. That’s 252,703 out of 726,940.
Janice Bond, District 15 chair, doesn’t know why the turnout was so low. But she said she suspects some voters were discouraged to cast their ballots when their candidates weren’t chosen to run or didn’t run in the primary and general elections.
“We still have local candidates here that need your support,” Bond said. “Stop by and talk to the candidates when they are sign waving, just talk story.”
Ariel Lothlorien, a Kilauea resident, said he didn’t get a chance to vote because of a trip to the mainland.
“I normally vote,” Lothlorien said.
Lothlorien, a former vice president for the Young Democrats of Kauai, said there are a lot of factors and decisions that go into picking candidates.
“Basically at the end of the day (people are) so burnt out that they don’t want to even consider political things,” he said. “It does take a bit to study it.”
Bond said at one point, Kauai had the highest voter turnout in the nation. The island reached its voter turnout peak in 1962, with 88.3 percent of registered voters casting their ballots. That’s 10,172 out of 11,517.
The numbers were on the cusp of 80 to 70 percent until Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992, which saw a low of 53 percent. Since then, the trend saw a steady decline to the 40- to 50-percentile range.
“People need to be interested and how politics changes things for (them); their standard of living,” Bond said. “Unless you forge ahead, you’re never going to get things that you want.”
Rep. Jimmy Tokioka (D-15), who won his district on Saturday, said younger voters ought to vote to secure their future.
“I would encourage them to get involved with campaigns and the voting process and ask the candidate questions,” Tokioka said. “Talk to the candidates, so they can get a sense of what he or she represents: the types of platforms and issues throughout the island the young people are concerned about.”