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Plenty of votes cast

“They ran out of stickers,” the middle-school-age boy said with a laugh as he and his dad returned to their car in the dark parking lot. After spending about an hour in line to enter the Maui County voter service center at Velma McWayne Santos Center in Wailuku on Tuesday night, they were two of the last to leave.

The duo represented the tail end of a line that started forming in the morning and wound in a big circle around the center’s parking lot all day. Voters just kept arriving, even a few who had to be turned away after the 7 p.m. deadline. Last in line entered the center at 7:35. The doors were locked after the final voter exited at 8:09.

Maui County was finished voting, but there were still hours to go on Oahu where the island’s two voting centers were overwhelmed by demand.

Yes, the lines on Maui were not ideal and there will surely be suggestions on how to improve the process, but if not having enough “I Voted” stickers was one of the only complaints heard outside the Santos Center Tuesday, that chalks up as a win for Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu, Deputy County Clerk James Krueger and their staff. Implementing the new all-mail voting system while navigating a pandemic and servicing what may be a record number of Maui County voters could not have been easy.

Kaohu and Krueger weren’t even confirmed to their positions until February of this year. Decked out in lei, ready for the challenges ahead, little did they know a novel coronavirus was about to sweep the planet.

It is obvious that state election officials underestimated the demand for in-person voting and same-day registration. Their new system makes early voting super easy. In-person voting Tuesday was super tedious. Waits of up to an hour and a half to vote on Maui and four hours on Oahu are not acceptable.

Reasons given for holding off to the last day to vote in person ranged from folks who did not receive a ballot in the mail to those who said they didn’t trust the mail-in system. Some said they were just following Election Day tradition.

Most of the kinks are sure to be ironed out and hopefully social distancing will be a vague memory in two years when we vote for both mayor and governor. To surpass this year’s vote totals we’re going to have our work cut out for us.

Spurred by important choices both nationally and locally, boosted by a mail-in system that lived up to its promise to increase turnout, Maui County tallied 71,634 ballots from a solid 66.4 percent of its registered voters.

Even if we didn’t get a sticker, that’s pretty good.

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