HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Elections – Local Style

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Elections – Local Style

By Kelly Moran

Another political season has officially begun. The deadline for filing papers has now passed, and a total of 72 people on the Big Island are gearing up for the federal, state and county posts that will be filled this year. The island may be big, but the population is small, and most people here know the names of their County Council member, their State Representative and their State Senator. Live here long enough, and you will surely get to meet your elected officials in person.

Don’t expect any endorsements from me. What I will do, though, is tell you what to expect as election time rolls around.

If you are registered to vote on the Big Island, but can’t come to do so in person, you can cast an absentee ballot. You have until one week before the September 20 primary and November 4 general election (Sept. 13 and Oct. 28, respectively) to obtain your absentee ballots at the Office of the County Clerk’s elections division.

While the County Building is being renovated, that office has moved to the old Hilo Iron Works building, on Kam Ave. beside the Wailoa River, across from the Suisan fish market.

  And if you are going to be here soon, but not on the actual election days, you can vote there, in person, any weekday during the two weeks beforehand, i.e., starting Sept. 8 and again starting Oct. 21.

Term-limits prevent our two-term mayor from running again, and eight people have filed to run for his seat, including one of the mayor’s aides, a state senator who was formerly a mayor, and two County Council members. In Hawaii you can not keep one elected position while you run for another, so each of the latter three jobs has also opened up, making the field in this year’s primary elections unusually crowded.

Three local races, however, are already decided, because no one filed to compete against two incumbent State Representatives, nor against the incumbent County Prosecutor (who had no opponent in 2004, either). Candidates can often be seen standing at busy intersections, during the morning and evening commute-times, waving at passing cars. Of course, they can’t be everywhere at once, so supporters and surrogates stand and wave in their stead. But often, you’ll see them standing alongside a life-size cutout photo of their candidate, who’s been posed with arm raised, waving, too.

You’ll also see many small campaign signs in front yards, and along the roads. But Hawaii’s strict anti-billboard laws prohibit huge signage; and all electioneering signs are supposed to be removed soon after election day.

That won’t change. But a big change is coming to the political process in the next election season: the Big Island’s State Representatives and Senators persuaded their colleagues to enact legislation that establishes a pilot project for public financing of local Council elections in 2010.

The Democratic and Republican Parties will hold pre-election rallies the night before the primary and general elections. These are big, noisy celebrations where, despite the rivalries, there is always a shared sense of joy. Remember: we all live here on this beautiful island, and as voters, we all share the responsibility to ensure it is managed in the public interest.

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