Hawaii’s 2014 primary elections were highlighted by a few major contests in the Democratic party primary. The races for governor, lieutenant governor, senator, and district 1 representative were all hotly contested.
While contested primaries can drive voter turnout, the elections were also affected by Iselle making landfall on Hawaii Island. About 1,500 HELCO customers are still without power a week later.
Hawaii has been at the bottom of nation in terms of voter turnout percentage. In fact, CNN ran a series of stories in 2012 trying to find out why as well as what residents were doing to change it (Change the List, Hawaii: The state that doesn’t vote).
Before we dig into the data, there are a few items to highlight.
The first is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). NVRA, also known as The Motor Voter Act, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton and took effect in 1995. The key portion of the law that affected Hawaii’s voter turnout was that it prohibited states from removing registered voters from their lists unless certain criteria are met. This law keeps people on the voter rolls longer to ease the registration process. However, it also keeps voters that are no longer in the state listed as registered voters.
Voter registration is affected in states with highly transient populations, like Hawaii. The graphs below show this effect as the registration numbers increase from election to election while the voter turnout remains fairly static.
Another area that needs to be clarified is that county voter turnout fluctuates in four year cycles as most races are on two or four-year cycles. The county mayor races most clearly show this direct county affect.
The final point to make is that the precinct maps are approximations, and we are only displaying 2012 and 2014 maps as the last redistricting happened into 2011. Hawaii goes through a process of redistricting and reapportionment every 10 years. So the precinct maps in 2012 would be very different from the maps in 2010.
Overall, voter turnout for the 2014 primary elections were slightly down overall. Both Maui and Kauai counties showed a slight increase from 2012, most likely due to those counties having mayoral elections. Both the City & County of Honolulu and Hawaii County showed a slight decline.
The area of Hawaii County with the greatest decrease in voter turnout was in the Puna district. What is not clear if this decline was due to Iselle, the county not having a mayoral race, or a combination of the two.
2014 Hawaii primary election voter turnout by county
2014 Hawaii primary election voter turnout by precinct – *precinct borders are approximate
2012 Hawaii primary election voter turnout by precinct – *precinct borders are approximate