Voting officials surprised by large Maui precinct turnout

More than 230 voters in line during peak

Voters wait in line at the Maui County voter service center at Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku on Tuesday morning. Kihei’s Andrew Sutrisno (foregound left) said he was in line because he did not receive a ballot in the mail. The wait to vote was about an hour. “It’s worth it,” Sutrisno said. “Every vote matters.” Daniel Smith (foreground right) of Haiku said he would rather vote in person. “I’ll stand in line for as long as it takes,” Smith said, adding the county’s charter amendments were a big concern for him. “I understand $300,000 has come in from out of state,” Smith said. “All those signs that say ‘vote no’ on the charter amendments, it’s that money. Those things, if they can actually happened could change a lot in this community.” The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

WAILUKU — County officials and volunteers were surprised with the large turnout of in-person voters on Election Day at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.

“We didn’t anticipate (the line) to grow to this size,” said James Krueger, deputy county clerk and precinct leader Tuesday evening. “People are just excited to be out here to vote.”

The final voter entered the precinct around 7:30 p.m. and left at 8:10 p.m. Voting was scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

Krueger said volunteers helped more people on Election Day than they did during the entire 10-day voting period for the primaries. He estimated about 800 people had come by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The first printout, released after 11 p.m., showed total voter turnout at 60.8 percent with 65,641 people casting ballots out of 107,930 registered voters. There were thousands of new registered voters since ballots were sent out; same-day registration is allowed in Hawaii.

Common Cause Hawaii volunteer Valerie Muroki offers free bottles of water to voters waiting in line Tuesday evening at the Velma McWayne Santos Center in Wailuku.

The first printouts were held up until after 11 p.m. because of voters still in line on Oahu. There were lines on Maui, too.

Some waited at the Wailuku voter center for over an hour and the line reached about 230 people at the peak of the day, just after lunchtime, a county volunteer said.

As the sun set, a steady line of more than 100 voters patiently waited to electronically cast their ballots. Volunteers handed out water and chips to people who waited around 45 minutes in a line that snaked through the perimeter of the parking lot.

Many of the voters interviewed Tuesday said they came out in person because they didn’t trust the mail-in option.

“Someone said something like, ‘Do you trust putting cash in the mail? If you wouldn’t put your cash in the mail, why would you put your vote in the mail?’ “ said Nadia Cabreros of Lahaina.

Voters stand in line at Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku on Tuesday morning. The wait was about an hour when this photo was taken

Others, such as Debbie Miguel, a Kahului resident, said she was last-minute and prefers in-person voting.

Voting is important to her, she said, “because then I can grumble after.”

Austin Sagon, a 20-year-old Waiehu resident, said he is a first-time voter. He, too, said he prefers in-person voting over mail-in, just in case the latter “doesn’t count.”

Sagon said voting is important for young people because they are “the future generation.”

“We will have to step up and lead this country,” he said. “It’s not just our generation but the future generations.”

Darcie Buduan, Wailuku resident, said she’s voting not just for herself but because the issues are important to friends and family.

“I feel like even if some of the issues don’t matter to me, I have friends who rely on the outcome,” she said.

She said she felt more comfortable handing her vote to someone, as opposed to just mailing it in.

Krueger said many people who showed up on Election Day said they would rather vote in person.

Volunteers ask people to surrender their mail-in ballot when they check in.

He added that the county overwhelmingly votes via mail-in ballots.

“We want to make sure there are options available to people,” Krueger said. “Overwhelmingly, people have been voting by mail but if they want to vote in person, we are here for them.”

The election official said he was grateful people have been patiently waiting in line, especially during the hotter hours. Krueger said the mood was positive overall.

The Cabreros family, who drove from Lahaina, said the atmosphere was mellow.

“I thought I would see more people hyped out, trying to prove their sides,” Kaleo Cabreros said.

Nadia Cabreros added that Hawaii is unique because the community is more tightknit and respectful than in other areas in the U.S.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today