HONOLULU (KHON2) — Tuesday’s election in Hawaii was either the worst for turnout or among the best, depending on which metric you use.
It depends on whether you look at the count of votes cast or the percentage of registered voters who participated. Either way, there’s big room for improvement to make sure more people make their votes count.
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In a record low for a Hawaii general election, only 48.4 percent of registered voters participated.
“We didn’t have the most exciting election, as far as issues here in Hawaii,” said Scotty Anderson, chairman of the Hawaii Elections Commission. “I think most people realize that several races, especially the bigger ones, were pretty much set, and I think that hurt the turnout.”
But turnout as a percent is a bit deflated because the denominator in the equation — registered voters — is supersized. More than 100,000 people on the rolls are “inactive voters,” many, not even residents anymore, but by federal law, they can’t be purged from the rolls for several inactive cycles.
If you look at the number of votes cast in this election, it actually comes in 6th highest of all time, with more than 417,000 people casting ballots.
“That’s really good to hear,” Anderson said. “You know, we take a lot of guff down at the commission, and of course, the Office of Elections does, on all mail-in, on how horrible it is. It’s really a great system, and it’s an extremely safe system.”
As KHON2 first reported yesterday, there was a bit of pushback this cycle against early voting, with more than 10,000 lining up on election day and around 100,000 mail and dropbox ballots coming in on or just before the final cutoff. That’s a reversal in a trend toward early voting that had been building for years.
How can officials make election-day voting easier?
“Those decisions are really up to the counties involved,” Anderson said. “It’s not the state Office of Elections decision, and it’s certainly not the commission. But they’re going to have to look at that. There are always things that we can look at, to try to improve things. And we are going to do that. We will always do that. We’ll do that after every election. We’re going to see if there were any bumps in the road, and if there are, we will smooth them out.”
The general election had some notable outcomes. Republicans won five new spots in the legislature — four of them unseating Democratic Party incumbents.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Anderson said. “Even Ben Cayetano said a couple of years ago, we need a loyal opposition. “You need to have enough people that you can have a second opinion, which doesn’t mean that they’re against everything or for this or whatever. It just means that you have another real scope of ideas that can maybe help us. I think in the long run, we’re all trying to get to the same place.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona got more than 151,000 votes, around the number he got against Neil Abercrombie in 2010, but Josh Green’s victory in the 2022 governor’s race was historic. Green earned the top spot for votes ever received by a Hawaii gubernatorial candidate at nearly 260,000.
Green comes in second for margin of victory in the vote count at 108,643 votes more than Aiona. That margin is just behind his predecessor Gov. David Ige (113,215) with the all-time largest victory margin, and just above former Gov. Linda Lingle (93,596). All of them received around 100,000 votes more than their closest competitors.
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Green comes in third for victory margin as a percent spread above the next opponent. Green had a 26 percent margin above Aiona. Ige retained the top spot historically at a 28.4 percent margin, and Lingle holds second place at 26.8 percent.