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Turnout in Maui County lowest in the state at 25 percent as of Saturday night

Joyce and Mike Miyamoto of Kahului stand in line to cast their ballots Saturday afternoon at the Maui County Voter Service Center at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. They said their ballots did not arrive in the mail so they had to vote in person. “There’s a lot going on with the economy, inflation and the pandemic so we feel it is important to vote,” Mike Miyamoto said. “There is a lot going on.” The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — Lines started forming at the voter service center in Wailuku early on the morning of Election Day as residents hurried to place their votes before the close of voting on Saturday.

“The line started forming at 6:40 a.m. It’s been a busy day,” Deputy County Clerk James Krueger said shortly after 7 p.m. as he waited for the final people in line at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center to cast their votes. “The other days were pretty slow. Yesterday we had some, but today’s been by far the busiest.”

Despite the lines at the voter service center on Saturday, turnover in Maui County registered at an abysmal 25.1 percent by the second release of results, with 28,488 ballots cast out of 113,427 registered voters. It was the lowest turnout in the state, following Hawaii County at 37.4 percent, Honolulu County at 34.3 percent and Kauai County at 33.4 percent as of the second printout.

Maui County had been seeing a rise in turnout in recent primary elections, going from 29.6 percent in 2016 to 36.2 percent in 2018 and 42.7 percent in 2020, when 43,873 out of 102,835 registered voters cast their ballot.

“I think I’m surprised by it just based on the number of people that showed up to vote today,” Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu said just before 11 p.m. Saturday. “It was a pretty steady line that moved steadily through the different stations at the voting service center. I would’ve thought it would be a little higher than 25 percent.”

Kaohu said that some of the reasons for low turnout may have been voters who were “disillusioned with the process” and felt like “their votes were not gonna make a difference.”

She also said that there may have been an increased in relocated voters, with people moving to Hawaii during the pandemic or local people leaving the state. If their voter registration information didn’t get updated, it could impact the turnout, Kaohu said.

Most of the turnout came by mail, with 27,296 ballots cast, including 20,978 Democratic Party voters, according to state Office of Election results as of 10:30 p.m. Republican voters had the second-highest turnout by mail with 4,515 ballots cast. Republican voters were more likely to vote in person, making up 721 of the 1,192 votes cast in person in Maui County. A total of 385 Democratic voters cast ballots in person.

Kaohu said that results from the voter service centers on Maui, Molokai and Lanai may appear on the third report, as ballots from the Maui center came in late and county staff had just picked up Molokai and Lanai’s ballots from the airport shortly before 11 p.m.

While reports showed low turnout, the voter service center in Wailuku was busy, with some voters leaving and coming back due to long lines, including Joyce and Mike Miyamoto of Kahului.

The couple said their ballots did not arrive in the mail, so they had to vote in person.

“There’s a lot going on with the economy, inflation and the pandemic so we feel it is important to vote,” Mike Miyamoto said. “There is a lot going on.”

Juliet Calpo of Wailuku said that she came to the voter service center on Saturday night because she preferred to vote in person and because “I procrastinated.”

“It’s a very tough choice because with this world that we live in, especially now with the new norms and things happening in the world, it’s really difficult because they all have unique platforms,” Calpo said.

She said there were some candidates she was leaning towards but changed her mind because they couldn’t explain their solutions to important issues like homelessness, housing, education and infrastructure.

“I was looking for answers that are more specific than just general,” Calpo said.

Vince Castaneto, who has to work three jobs to afford his “sky high” rent in Pukalani, said that housing was the biggest issue as he casts his vote.

“Housing is the number one issue for everybody, especially for kanaka or people who have lived here forever or were born and raised here, then they’re being forced out of their homes <\q>.<\q>.<\q>. to go move to the Mainland,” Castaneto said.

Castaneto said he was voting “for the candidate that makes the most sense to me,” not just someone who’s most popular on social media.

“Someone who has the experience and the leadership to make a difference, and someone that’s young too. <\q>.<\q>.<\q>. I’m looking for a lot of young people that understand the needs that’s gonna affect me 10, 15 years down the line.”

Kathy Wade lives in Wailuku and was dropping off her ballot on Saturday evening at the deposit box outside the Maui County building.

Wade said she likes the process of voting by mail “because I can look at the names and try to figure out who I’m going to vote for” from home or elsewhere.

“It’s convenient,” Wade said.

Wade acknowledged the volume of candidates in this year’s election and said she was able to talk to some candidates and that those that she wasn’t sure about, she went with the endorsements of her union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

When asked what the top issue was for her as a voter, Wade said that the future of democracy was at stake, and expressed concern about candidates developing extreme views and not being able to come together.

“We need to be able to talk to each other. We need to be able to work together,” Wade said.

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