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Maui County voter turnout 42.7 percent for primary, highest in recent elections

Daniel Dismukes of Haiku fills out a form while turning in his paper ballot to vote electronically Saturday at the Velma Santos Community Center voter service center. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui County ended up with a 42.7 percent voter turnout this primary election, or 43,873 votes out of 102,835 total registered voters, according to statistics from the final from the state Office of Elections.

The totals for this year’s primary, which is the state’s first all mail-in election, surpass those of the 2018 primary election, which had a 36.2 percent turnout with 94,194 registered voters, according to statistics from the Maui County Clerk’s Office.

This year’s primary had a 39.7 percent turnout but with a larger number of registered voters.

In the 2016 primary, Maui County’s turnout was 29.6 percent, with 91,138 registered voters.

A day before Saturday’s primary election, Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu had hoped for a 45,000 voter turnout or a nearly 44 percent. Around 10:45 p.m., Kaohu was still tending to the vote count and could not be interviewed.

A voter places a ballot in the drop box at Kalana O Maui on Saturday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The mail ballot turnout was 40,110, and the in-person voting turnout at three voter service centers countywide was 697, according to the second printout.

On Saturday afternoon, the Clerk’s Office reported on its Facebook page totals as of Friday from the various districts. The largest number of votes was from Upcountry with 8,325; followed by Wailuku with 7,898; Molokai, Lanai and Hana with 6,369; South Maui with 5,919; Kahului with 5,498; and West Maui with 5,117.

A steady flow of in-person voters meandered through Velma McWayne Santos Community Center on Saturday night during the final hour before precinct doors closed at 7 p.m.

James Krueger, deputy county clerk and precinct leader, said Saturday had the largest turnout of voters over all 12 days the center was open, with an estimated 170 participating.

Voters had various reasons for coming to polls – from missing mail-in ballots to curiosity over using the new voting machines.

Heather Galloday smiles at voter service center staffer Dana Nakooka after dropping off ballots Saturday at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I wanted to see what the technology looks like. I wanted to use it myself,” said Daniel Dismukes, Haiku resident.

After voting, he said the new technology was overall easy to use, noting the voting review section at the end was difficult to read.

“Full disclosure: At the end, it has a printout thing and it could’ve said Hillary Clinton 20 times, and I couldn’t read it because it was so small,” Dismukes said. “I thought this better be the same as I selected. I’m trusting you guys.”

Cleo Borthwick, who was registered to vote but her ballot never arrived, came with mom Diane Minogue, who voted by mail.

“I prefer in person but I can live with mail,” Minogue said.

The two said voting during a pandemic was an interesting experience.“I never thought something like this would happen,” Borthwick said.

Minogue said the location was streamlined with volunteers directing voters and signs posted on where to go.

Desiree Paahana said the decision to vote in person was an easy one.

“I messed up my mail-in ballot,” she said, laughing.

Krueger said there were various reasons for in-person voting, including missing the registration deadline and missing ballots in the mail, perhaps due to incorrect mailing addresses.

“We have also gotten some feedback where people are saying, ‘You know, we really want to vote at the polls — voting in-person is what I want to do,’ ” Krueger said.

Overall, Krueger said that the feel he got from voters was positive, with participants eager to participate in the process.

“Voting numbers are up,” he said. “The mail-in and services we are providing are really encouraging people to do that.”

This year, staff said the voting process, which allows for counting up to 10 days out from Election Day, was efficient, as well as exciting.

“What I gather from staff this year is that this is exciting but not as chaotic in previous years, because in previous years, everything would happen in one day,” he said. “Because we have so much time to work and perfect our craft, things get easier and easier as we go on.”

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