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An Introduction to Local Elections 2014

Information about the voting process.

March 18, 2014
Susan Halas - Contributing Writer (wailukusue@gmail.com) , Maui Weekly

South Maui is notorious for its low voter turnout. Though the area has a substantial and growing population estimated at more than 20,000 residents, the voice of its citizens is often muted by their failure to register and to turn out at the polls.

In July 2012, Civil Beat reported that voter turnout on Maui lags 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 placed District 10 (39.4 percent). By comparison, the average statewide turnout was 55.7 percent. (Link to Civil Beat story at end of article.)

Article Photos

Civil Beat coverage

Non-Partisan Races: Mayor and County Council Members

All county offices are non-partisan elections. The candidates do not state a party affiliation. County offices that will appear on the ballot this year are mayor (a four-year term) and nine County Council seats (a two-year term each). Each County Council seat has a district designation, which means the candidates seeking office have to live a specific geographic region.

However, Maui voters can vote for Maui County Council candidates in all nine of the districts.

The primary election is on Saturday, Aug. 9, but it is possible to vote earlier by absentee or walk-in vote.

In non-partisan races where there are more than two candidates, the names of all those running will appear on the primary ballot. The two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes in the primary will go on to face each other in the general election.

Where there are two or fewer candidates in a county non-partisan race, their names will not appear on the primary ballot but will be shown on the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Again, it is possible to vote earlier by absentee ballot or walk-in vote.

Partisan Races at State & Federal Level

All the state and federal elections in Hawai'i are partisan. That means, when the candidate files, they select a designation such as Democrat, Republican, or a variety of other options. Presently, all the elected state and federal officials representing Maui County are Democrats. That means that the Democratic primary can be the more important race, and the general election is sometimes only a formality.

In the partisan primaries, no matter how many names are on the ballot, only the candidate receiving the most number of votes in his or her race goes on to face opponents of other parties in the general election.

Hawai'i has an Open Primary

In many other places, a voter is required to be a member of a particular party to vote in its primary. This is not the case in Hawai'i. Here, we have what is called an "open" primary system. When a voter goes to the polls, he or she is presented with all the primary ballots and is instructed to select only one of them. This is done in secret--no one knows which ballot an individual voter selects.

It is often the case that voters who are not actually Democrats select a Democrat primary ballot. Sometimes, a very small number of votes determine who wins the primary, so those who follow local electoral politics often follow the primary races--particularly the Democratic primary races--very closely.

Other Offices to be Decided in 2014

In addition to the mayor, the County Council, the State House of Representatives and many members of the State Senate, other offices are up for election this year include U.S. Senator (one seat this year), U.S. House of Representatives (one seat for Neighbor Island-rural O'ahu, one seat for O'ahu) and governor.

The election for U.S. Senate is termed a "special election." Normally, the full term of a U.S. Senate seat is six years. But when Hawai'i's U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye died in office in December 2012, an interim appointment was made to fill the vacancy. The election for U.S. Senate is to select the person who will hold the office for the remaining portion of the existing term, which will end Jan. 3, 2017. The frontrunners for this seat are both Democrats, and the August primary will decide which Democrat candidate's name will appear on the November ballot.

General Information About the 2014 Elections

The deadline for all candidates to file nomination papers is 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

The list of candidates who have filed for election is updated weekly.

Candidates in this article were on the record as of March 7, 2014, or had publically posted election Websites announcing their intention to seek office.

The list of those who have filed papers appears at

hawaii.gov/elections/candidates/reports/2014/candidate-report_2014-03-07.pdf.

 
 

 

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