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Voting officials surprised by large Wailuku precinct turnout

More than 230 in line during peak

A line of up to 230 people snaked outside Maui's voting precinct Election Day at Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

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 on 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.

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

Some volunteers handed out water and snacks to people waiting in line to vote. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

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.

Others, such as Debbie Miguel, 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, who drove to Wailuku 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 tight-knit and respectful than in other areas in the U.S.

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