Maybe Some Hawaii People Shouldn't Vote?

HONOLULU hits the streets to find out how people REALLY pick their candidates.

If you’re reading this, chances are you intend to be an informed voter come election day.

You might even be one of those political junkies who speculates about who the front runners are, what it would take for an underdog to pull ahead and what it means every time a new candidate steps in — or, in some cases, backs out.

We fall into that camp, making predictions based on who has the most advantages: political experience, party backing, name recognition, campaign funds, endorsements and even just plain old likability. But we always have to hedge our bets–this year in particular when there are a lot of viable candidates vying for a limited number of seats.

And then there’s a certain degree of unpredictability that comes from voters who aren’t necessarily researching their candidates before the election. Who knows what they’ll be thinking once they hold that ballot in hand?

With that in mind, we conducted a very unscientific survey, asking a couple dozen shoppers from Pearl City to Hawaii Kai how they planned to vote–or in some cases, why they weren’t registered.

The positive news is that the majority of interviewees says they plan to find out about their candidates before they make their decisions.

As for the others, they didn’t want to be identified as arbitrary voters but the promise of anonymity led to some interesting answers.

“If I see someone coming on very hard, I know he’s on the ball and he really wants it,” says a 66-year-old Democrat from Wahiawa who says he planned to vote along party lines.

But for the primary, he has options, so he says, “He’s gotta have the same hair as me,” which immediately ruled out Gov. Abercrombie. “I don’t know anything about (Sen. David) Ige, but I like him,” he added.

In the general election, there will be two black-haired candidates, but not only is former Mayor (and former Democrat) Mufi Hannemann running as an Independent, the Wahiawa resident says, “I gave him a chance before, but somehow he flubbed it.”

Abercrombie will be the beneficiary of one 36-year-old Aiea woman’s vote for governor. “I vote alphabetically, whoever is on top of the party list on the ballot,” she says, noting that she’s a Democrat.

However, another woman in Hawaii Kai, who would only say she was in her 60s, says she looks for names she recognizes. She carefully scanned the list of 12 gubernatorial candidates, her brow wrinkled and she mumbled she didn’t know anyone. Then, finally smiling, she pointed to Duke Aiona and announced, “He’s the only one I know. That’s who I’m voting for.” (While name recognition is a common way of voting, it’s hard not to point out that Aiona’s name was directly under our current governor’s, while former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and state Sen. David Ige were a little lower on the list.)

Others says they follow their union’s endorsements. A few says they’d vote for anyone but the incumbents because we need a change.

It’s hard to predict who people are going to pick when they’re alone in the ballot booth or voting absentee, but let us offer a few words of advice garnered from people who say they always find out about the candidates before they cast their votes:

  • Follow the media and find out what candidates think about the issues — don’t just count who has the most signs along your commute.

  • If you don’t know any of the candidates, it’s okay to not to vote in that particular race.

  • If you don’t like one candidate, watch some debates and joint-appearances and compare them to their opponents. You might find the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t–not that politicians are devils, of course.

  • Make a list of who you plan to vote for before you head to your polling place. It will make it easier to get through the sea of names.