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Eruption has little effect on turnout

  • Tribune-Herald file photo

    Tom Mackay, whose Luana Street home in Leilani Estates was lost in the recent lava outbreak, was the first in line to vote Saturday at Pahoa Community Center.

Despite displacement of residents because of the Kilauea eruption, and longer wait times on election day, voter turnout in lower Puna saw little change during Saturday’s primary election.

Combined voter turnout for precincts covering Kalapana through Kapoho was 33 percent, up from 31.7 percent in 2016.

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That reflected an increase in turnout in precinct 04-03 — Kalapana, Opihikao, west Pahoa and Ainaloa — where 33.6 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, up from 29.8 percent two years before.

However, voter turnout in precinct 04-04 — Leilani Estates, Nanawale Estates and Kapoho — was 32.6 percent, down from 34 percent in 2016.

Most cast ballots through absentee mail or early walk-in.

Because of the eruption, the state Office of Elections mailed ballots early to voters in those two precincts. It later decided to open a consolidated polling place for those precincts at the Pahoa Community Center.

That created delays on election day as workers or volunteers at the polling place had to call the county elections office to have each voter’s absentee mail ballot canceled before they could use a voting machine.

Pat Nakamoto, county elections administrator, estimated voters had to wait 10 to 15 minutes as a result.

That resulted in long lines. She said she wasn’t aware of voters leaving because of it.

“There were some complaints,” Nakamoto said.

“Right now, I have staff … trying to determine the amount of time people had to wait and how many voters waited for an unusual amount of time.”

The number of voters using the combined polling place on election day was 363.

While it’s up to the state, she said it’s likely the two precincts will have their own polling places during the Nov. 6 general election.

Countywide turnout was 38.8 percent, up from 37.3 percent in 2016.

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Statewide turnout was 38.6 percent, up from 34.8 percent in 2016 but down from 41.5 percent in 2014.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.