LIHUE — In just more than two months, Kauai voters will head to the polls to vote in the primary election that will decide which candidates will move on to November’s general election.
In the last three primary elections, the number of Kauai residents who have voted has risen each year. The 2012 primary election drew 39,834 votes, while 41,165 residents voted in the 2014 primary election and the 2016 primary race rendered 43,036 votes.
Of Kauai’s 72,000 residents, about 43,000 are registered.
The last day to register to vote in the Aug. 11 primary election is July 12.
Trent Ellis-Elgart of Kapaa, 40, said he’ll be voting in both the primary and general elections.
“The government is a big part of the community we live in,” he said.
For the past 12 years, Lihue resident Janice Bond has been working to register new voters and to encourage young people to become involved in politics.
As District 15 Democratic Party chair, Bond says it’s been her job to get young people involved with politics.
“In March we had our precinct meeting, five precincts, standing room only, all of these millennials registering with the Democratic Party. It was like unbelievable and taking office. Young attorneys and businessmen who have never really been involved before,” she said.
That experience felt good, Bond said, because it was a realization that she’d been doing her job well.
She said the November election is the last election in which Kauai and Niihau residents will go to the polling booth to vote.
“In 2020 for Kauai and Niihau, we will be the first county to have permanent absentee voting. We will not have the precincts to go to. Everybody will get a mailed ballot,” Bond said.
With these upcoming changes, Bond said people need to be aware of what’s happening.
Laurel McGraw, 67, who lives in Wailua Homesteads, said though she hasn’t made a definitive choice yet about who she’ll be voting for, she will be voting in the upcoming primary election.
Though she’s registered as a Democrat, McGraw said she doesn’t always vote along party lines.
“I have strong feelings about certain issues,” she said. “I’ve been on the board of the YWCA and I support Planned Parenthood and various other things like that.”
One thing about voting, McGraw said, is to be certain to research who and what you’re voting for and to make up your own mind.
“One of the problems we’re experiencing is it’s so polarized and that’s not how it should be. Issues should be taken and considered in this way,” she said.
Voting is important, but not all citizens have the right to vote, which is something Kekaha resident Jonathan Peacock knows all too well.
“I will not be voting,” the 38-year-old said. “Unfortunately I was convicted of a felony a couple of years ago. It scars me from being able to vote, but I wish I could.”
Peacock, who just finished his parole, said he spent a year in prison after accepting a plea agreement for a crime he said he didn’t commit. He’d never been in trouble before and is currently working on a governor’s pardon for his alleged crime, he said.
“I want my rights back to be able to do those things, especially voting, carrying arms, whatever, but at the time I cannot, so I’m just patient with it,” Peacock said. “I think there are a lot of people out there that that (wrongful convictions) happens to.”
Those who aren’t registered to vote, he said, shouldn’t take those rights for granted.
“We’re all immigrants, especially in Hawaii, we’re all different, we all come from different walks of life and for us to get those rights, it’s a privilege and if you’re not taking advantage of those privileges, I don’t know,” he said.
The political process on Kauai, Bond said, needs to be revised.
“People need to see the importance, if they cannot see the direction of the country’s been heading in, they need to be aware and be involved in the issues. I think more and more so, especially with the Hawaiian people, they’re starting to get involved, the people are issues based but they’re starting to get involved and that’s healthy,” Bond said.
Every vote matters, Bond said.
“The thing is, you can’t complain if you haven’t voted for a person, for a party, for the issue and many people vote because of an issue they’re involved in and feel passionate about,” Bond said.
As for heading to the polls on election day, McGraw said to just do it.
“It’s good, painless, makes you feel powerful. If you live in a country that you believe is a democracy, then it’s up to you to become a part of it,” she said.
Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or email@example.com.