LIHU‘E — If you only counted in-person voting, the midterm election would have been a red tsunami for Kaua‘i Republicans.
Democratic candidates soundly defeated Republican challengers on Kaua‘i in November, retaining all four seats in the state Legislature and significantly outperforming opponents in races for governor, U.S. senator and U.S. representative.
But precinct-level election results show that Republican candidates’ in-person vote totals were often dramatically better than their opponents across the aisle.
In the governor’s race, for example, Democrat Josh Green won the island with 57 percent of the overall vote. But he only received 373 in-person votes (26 percent), to Republican Duke Aiona’s 1,034 (73 percent). In the Kaua‘i state Senate race, incumbent Democrat Ron Kouchi received 65 percent of the vote to Republican Ana Mo Des’s 21 percent — but Mo Des took home 62 percent of the in-person vote to Kouchi’s 38 percent.
A scan of results shows that this trend held in state representative and federal races. Since far more voters cast ballots by mail, however (23,466 to 1,442), this was never enough to significantly affect the result of these races.
University of Hawai‘i political analyst Colin Moore attributed the trend to Republican fears of voter fraud.
“Republicans everywhere have more concerns about voter fraud, so as a result they were more likely to vote in person,” said Moore. “(The trend) first appeared right before the 2020 federal election when Trump started making those claims about the election being stolen.”
Former President Donald Trump began pushing unfounded claims of widespread election fraud and advocating for his supporters to vote in person in the run-up to the 2020 election. The message had an impact on voters, leading to Republicans consistently outperforming Democrats on in-person turnout totals nationwide. This was true on Kaua‘i in 2020, where in-person voting followed similar trends to this year.
The trend did not exist at all on island in 2018, likely showing how much Trump’s message resonated.
This message has been frequently pushed by For Our Rights, an anti-vaccine, anti-mandate nonprofit based in Kapa‘a.
“Voting IN PERSON is one big step in helping to reduce malfeasance!” reads one For Our Rights newsletter sent this July.
For Our Rights often pushes far-right conspiracy theories, including a May newsletter linking a video that claimed the Uvalde school shooting was a false flag attack planned to drum up support for more restrictive gun control measures.
Kauai Republican Party Chair and candidate for state Senate Mo Des attributed the in-person trend to a tradition of in-person voting.
“We traditionally enjoyed showing up in person in each of our individual precincts,” said Mo Des. “That was a time to get together with the community, to see people that lived with us. It was a tradition on election day to go to vote.”
“I voted in person on Election Day, and it was lovely to see the lines knowing that most of the people that did show up to vote in person would be Republican,” she continued.
Mo Des said that concerns over election fraud did affect the Republican strategy this year, sparking an effort to involve volunteers in the Office of County Clerk Elections Division signature verification process, and to encourage a more expansive audit of election results.
“Election integrity is a huge pillar of our government. It’s not a partisan issue,” said Mo Des. “As the Republican Party, we put volunteers in place to ensure it, and we will continue to do so.”
While no Kaua‘i Republicans gained seats in the state Legislature, Moore said the party had a stronger-than-expected performance statewide.
Republicans grabbed six seats in the state Legislature, knocking off three incumbent Democrats. But they still remain a small minority in the state Legislature, with eight legislators out of a total of 76.
“They ran better candidates than they often do in legislative races,” said Moore, “people with deeper connections to the community who ran legitimate campaigns and didn’t come off as too conspiracy oriented.”
Mo Des said Republican candidates benefited from a realization from voters that “the status quo is no longer acceptable,” and discussed corruption in the Democratic majority government.
Moore also said that corruption — including a February bribery scandal involving two former Democratic legislators and recent DUI cases involving two losing Democratic candidates — likely helped Republican challengers.
“When that’s highlighted in voters’ minds, Republicans tend to do better,” said Moore. “But it’s not like it led to some huge changing of the guard.”
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island