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Voter turnout in South Maui and Lahaina lowest in state

July 19, 2012
The Maui Weekly

Honolulu Civil Beat - Voter turnout on Maui lags behind the rest of the state, and House District 11, which includes Wailea and most of Kihei, is next to last among the state's 51 districts.

Only the adjacent District 10, which includes Lahaina and Ka'anapali, reports lower voter turnout.

Just four in 10 registered voters in these areas cast ballots in the 2010 General Election, with Kihei's District 11 (41.6 percent) narrowly beating out last place District 10 (39.4 percent). By comparison, the average statewide turnout was 55.7 percent.

Although no data specific to Maui is available, a survey by the California Institute of Technology asked people in all 50 states why they didn't get around to voting in 2008. Of the 200 respondents from Hawai'i, 35 percent gave the same answer--"too busy." Another 35 percent said they didn't like the election choices, while 19 percent blamed problems getting to their polling places.

The dominance of Hawai'i's Democratic Party in recent decades and the resulting lack of competitive elections are also cited by several observers as an important structural factor in reducing turnout. Strong incumbents who are able to dominate their districts discourage competitors from jumping in, and the lack of competition can feed the "my vote doesn't count" feeling among voters.

"If you go to public meetings, or listen to testimony at the County Council, almost none of the people come from Kahului," said Dick Mayer, a retired University of Hawai'i Maui College professor. "Almost all come from Kihei."

The Kihei Community Association holds monthly meetings, presents educational programs on county issues and maintains close relations with county officials, including regular meetings with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

"We do everything," Moran told Civil Beat. "We've had voter registration drives, we put on candidate forums, we host 'speed dating' meetings where candidates move around to talk personally with small groups of voters. We've tried everything we possibly can, but each time the election comes around, we get the same kind of results," Moran said.

A transient population with high turnover from the mainland was also blamed for the low turnout in Kihei and Lahaina.



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