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HOOSER: Campaigning by the numbers

Because the vast majority of legislative seats in Hawai‘i are held by Democrats, the Primary Election of Aug. 10 is everything.

Even for nonpartisan County Council races, finishing strong in the primary election is hugely important.

At 7 p.m. on Aug, 10 this election will officially be over.

While the beautiful and bountiful lady will not sing until Aug. 10, for most races it will really be over in just 100 days.

So you candidates out there best be kicking it into high gear.

Today is Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

The Office of Elections begins mailing ballots to voters on or about July 15 voters and by July 23 every registered voter in Hawai‘i will have their ballot and begin voting.

Candidates have only 100 days to gain “name recognition” and convince voters to mark the box next to their name.

Yes absolutely, candidates can and must push hard all the way through the final 17 days until 7 p.m. on Aug. 10, but the lion’s share of the work must be done prior to that critical moment when “ballots hit” the mail box.

According to the Office of Elections, in the 2022 primary election only 2.7 percent of all votes cast were done in person on the actual day of the election. Everyone else filled in the ballot that came in the mail and either mailed it back or dropped it off at a designated “place of deposit.”

Incumbents have the all-important benefit of name recognition. Newc candidates must work hard to gain that essential element by canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on doors, putting up signs and banners, holding signs along the highway, and spending money on direct mail.

And yes, this work has to be done now. The voter must see the candidates name and gain a favorable impression, multiple times in order for that impression to “stick.”

One hundred days from now, when the voter is scanning the names on the ballot, they’ll vote for a name they recognize and feel good about.

That’s the start and finish of winning an election.

If the voter has only a vague impression or no impression of the candidate at all, they will vote for the incumbent, leave it blank, or perhaps vote based on ethnicity, gender, political party, or other factors.

Name recognition and a positive “feeling” is what drives most voting decisions: “I’ve seen this person or read about this person or I got something in the mail from this person or my friend who I respect is supporting this person or this person came to my door … and they seem competent, professional, thoughtful, responsive. … So therefore I’m going to vote for them.”

Issue questionnaire’s published by advocacy and media organizations can be valuable tools for evaluating the core values and “issue positions” of candidates, but at the end of the day it’s about recognizing the name and feeling comfortable in placing that X next to it.

Of 853,874 registered voters in Hawai‘i (2022), only 40 percent actually voted — 517,000 votes were literally left on the table.

Over half a million Hawai‘i residents did not even bother to open the darn envelope, check a few boxes, stick it back in the envelope, and return it postage paid.

Clearly it’s because no candidate motivated them to do so, and far too many in our community believe their vote doesn’t matter.

It’s the candidates job over the coming 100 days to reach out to these voters and convince them otherwise. As citizens, it’s our responsibility to seek out and support those candidates we like. Let’s do it.


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council. He presently writes on Hawai‘i Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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