Early voter turnout strong

LIHUE — Hawaii’s voter turnout is among the worst in the nation, according to a study conducted by WalletHub, but Kauai voters have been coming out early and often for early registration and same-day voting.

“We’ve been averaging about 400 early voters a day, which is a decent number of people voting through and up to election day,” said county elections administrator Lyndon Yoshioka.

There are about 45,000 residents registered to vote on Kauai.

“As of today (Thursday) in terms of early voting, we have had 3,281 early voters (since Oct. 25),” Yoshioka said. “I think we’ve slowed down a bit with people showing up for early voting, down to about the low-to-mid 300s in the last couple of days from around 400 a day. But that’s normal as early-voting continues.”

According the study, Hawaii, as a state, has low voter turnout, which was evident in the 2012 presidential election.

“Hawaii has low numbers when it comes to voters registration, and the actual turnout is even lower,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub. “For the 2012 presidential election, almost 60 percent of residents registered to vote, while just 51.6 percent actually voted.”

Hawaii ranks 47th out 51 states (D.C. included in study) in political engagement, according to the study. While Kauai’s voter registration and turnout has been improving since the primary election earlier this year, the Garden Isle still has a long way to go.

Of the 43,036 residents registered to vote on Kauai during the primary election earlier this year, just 15,273 people came out and voted, 35.5 percent, according to the Kauai Office of Elections.

Despite the study’s results, Yoshioka said steps are being taken to ensure that people vote. The county is making the process as accessible as possible, which has led to a constant flow of residents coming to the Lihue Neighborhood Center since Oct. 25 to register and vote, he said.

“It’s not only what the county did, but what the state has done,” Yoshioka said. “We have established an online voter-registration system. This current early voting, we have same-day registration that was first initiated during the primary election.”

Early voting in Lihue has been convenient for many voters, including Keith Ogata, a retired resident who votes early on a consistent basis.

“I do it every election year,” Ogata said. “There’s less crowds, less hassle, and you can come whenever you want to do it.”

Coming to vote early during a weekday doesn’t take much time, many said. A few voters told The Garden Island they came to vote during their lunch break. Others wanted to vote ahead of general election day.

“It’s my day off,” said early voter Daniel Thorpe. “It’s just convenient (to vote early).”

According to another study by WalletHub, 46.5 percent of voters, supporting either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, say that their main objective is stop the other side from winning.

“I voted Democrat; I chose the best out of the two evils,” Ogata said.

While it may seem that voters are picking the lesser of two evils, there are local residents who came to vote early at the Lihue Neighborhood Center on Wednesday who are passionate about who they’re voting for.

“I voted for Hillary Clinton,” said Daniel Lee, an early voter. “My values and beliefs about the topics that are in the national level align better with her.”

The early-voting and online systems are a good sign of things to come for the state, and Gonzalez agrees with Yoshioka that voter turnout is likely to be much better than the 2012 election.

“As soon as the 2016 figures are available, we will look into that,” Gonzalez said. “However, since Hawaii is four-for-four in terms of voter-accessibility policies like online-voters registration, no-excuse absentee voting, early voting and same-day registration, the numbers should increase.”

Early voting and same day registration is still happening on Kauai and the polls are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday at the Lihue Neighborhood Center.

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