Voters get ready to hit the polls in Puna

All eyes are on Puna, as voters get ready to close out Hawaii’s Primary Election.

“The opportunity to vote, gives you the chance to be heard, yeah?” said Lindy Waiamau, voter.

“Excited and just thankful that they gave us the chance to get our word out there,” said Paula Ninio, Hawaiian Beaches resident.

U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa tried to prevent the polls from opening on Friday, citing the aftermath of Tropical Storm Iselle. The congresswoman is trailing incumbent U.S. Senator Brian Schatz by about 1,600 votes.

But on Thursday, Third Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura denied her request.

“I think it’s an unfortunate decision for the people of Puna. However, I also felt that the judge himself, felt that this was really not the right thing to do,” Rep. Hanabusa said.

Sen. Schatz remained tight-lipped on the issue, and continued with the recovery efforts in the area.

About 6,800 votes are still up for grabs, including 5,800 in Hawaiian Paradise Park.

Officials are trying to get those voters to the polls, by spreading the word in non-traditional manners. Since some people still don’t have power following Iselle, details about the election are being sent by mail, posted in neighborhoods, and even sent home with students to give to their parents. But not everyone agrees with these methods.

“Well school children aren’t going to arrive home with a notice about 15 hours before the election. I wouldn’t call that a fair notice. And a significant portion of residents in Paradise Park in particular are retirees that don’t have children,” said Philip Matlage, district chair for the Hawaii Democratic Party.

State Rep. Faye Hanohano, who’s also running in a close race that will be decided on Friday, said in a statement: “Why are they making it harder for my constituents to vote? Don’t they realize most of these families have no power, no water, and no information on where or when to vote?”

 

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