The clock ticks on the most consequential county election Kauai has ever staged. The primary is Saturday. Regular registration ends this afternoon at 4 p.m., but you can register at any polling place and still vote between when the polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.
On election day, you have to register at what would be your normal polling place. If you don’t know where that is, call the County Clerk, Elections Division, at 241-4800.
This is a column intended to, somehow, persuade you to vote if you have not decided to do so or have not already as an absentee. To do it, I’m going to reprise quotes I’ve used once already from two Kauai people with vast experience in the importance of elections and voting.
The first is from Kilauea resident Bill Troutman. He’s well known on the North Shore because he’s outspoken, can be somewhat irascible and is widely known as having a deep and committed sense for volunteer civic involvement. He is also a polling place worker.
“It’s disappointing how uninvolved our voters are,” Troutman said a couple of weeks ago. “Only about half who can register to do so. And only half of them vote. So it’s 30 percent of eligible voters who are actually casting ballots.”
If you are eligible and don’t vote, you are conceding to only one third of residents all decisions about the future direction of Kauai County. And if you’re 17 and can’t vote yet, but turn 18 before the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, you should vote then.
Think about this the next time you find yourself in a conversation about how allegedly fixed and crooked Kauai politics are. It’s a great excuse not to vote, if you can convince yourself that voting doesn’t actually matter.
The other quote that fills out the circle of reasoning is from Jan TenBruggencate, as astute a political observer as you’ll find on Kauai. He’s a former newspaper reporter and anyone who’s spent more than a year or so in the news business becomes afflicted with an incurable political junkie addiction.
TenBruggencate was lamenting the poor quality of some of the massive field of County Council candidates. There are some very good ones, but also several about whom one can only wonder what they were thinking when they filed.
He said: “Many of the candidates for County Council have never even attended a council meeting. They don’t have a clear understanding of what a council member does. They don’t understand that the council has nothing to do with the school system or veterans affairs and it simply can’t fix state highways. It leaves one wondering what kind of council we’re going to get.”
What all this means is that if you are open to admitting to yourself that there really is no viable reason not to vote, if you’re eligible, and you’ll concede that saying the whole thing is fixed by some mysterious power structure, anyway, is just a stupid excuse, you have to change course.
To register, you’ll need a Hawaii driver’s license or Hawaii state ID card, a military ID, a passport or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paychecks or some other government-issued document that shows your name and address. Surely you have one of those.
Now, who to vote for? In my years as a full-time reporter, I made it a practice to never register as a member of a political party, never make a donation to any campaign and never disclose to the public how I myself voted. I’m still not going to bend from that approach, except to say that I voted, already, for Mayor Bernard Carvalho for lieutenant governor.
Voting on Kauai also seems in some ways to be predicated on a fallacy sometimes called “plunk voting.” The idea is that you should only vote for candidates you really want to win. So, for council, instead of voting for seven people, you should only vote for your favorites since that will maximize their vote counts.
But once elected, these council members won’t be allowed to get away very often with failing to vote on legislation they think might cause them political trouble. As voters, you can’t get away with that, either. So my advice: vote for seven people. This may force you to relearn the basics of political compromise since you probably won’t find seven about whom you’re really wild. Plunk voting is a copout.
I don’t find a candidate in the governor’s race about whom I’m wildly enthusiastic, so my vote there was grudging. For U.S. representative, I find it offensive that the incumbent, Tulsi Gabbard, flat out refused to debate her primary opponent, Sherry Alu Campagna. It’s unforgivable.
For mayor, the election appears to be a two-person race between Derek Kawakami and Mel Rapozo, although JoAnn Yukimura — who filed late after saying she didn’t plan to run — has a long history of civic contribution. There’s no opinion polling that I know of, but for the moment it’s hard to say that the advantage doesn’t go, deservedly, to Kawakami.
For County Council, the bizarre size of the field makes the decisions difficult, even after sitting through one of the four excellent candidate forums organized by Community Coalition Kauai. But if you’re undecided, you may want to focus your thoughts on: the incumbents Mason Chock, Arryl Kaneshiro and Arthur Brun and, of the others, Luke Evslin, Juno Apalla, Adam Roversi, Milo Spindt, Norma Doctor Sparks and Felicia Cowden. I’ll be honest. Of the lot, I think Evslin, Apalla and Roversi have the most to contribute.
As to Cowden, there will be many people surprised that I include her on this list. I didn’t vote for her. But it’s just a primary. She does represent a segment of the community that should be heard, so, as you make your decision, look closely at Cowden and her current and past positions. Go to her website and read what she has to say.
She and I are on diametrically opposite sides of the controversy over GMOs and their surrogate, the pesticide war. She does want the best for the island, even if she and I don’t agree on much of what that is.
It’s an incredibly important election. The fix is NOT in. If you are registered or eligible to vote, YOU are the person in whose grasp these decisions lie. And if you’re 17, but your 18th birthday is before Nov. 6, get ready to do the most important thing you will ever do as a citizen: Vote.
Allan Parachini is a Kilauea resident who writes occasionally for The Garden Island.