Voting Drops 83 Percent In All-Digital Election

Published On: May 26 2009 03:49:57 AM HST   Updated On: May 26 2009 04:24:54 AM HST

Officials saw an 83 percent drop in the number of voters participating in the Honolulu Neighborhood Board's recent election that is the nation's first all-digital election, where people could vote over the Internet or by phone.

For the first time, Oahu voters had to use computers or the telephone to vote for their neighborhood board candidates and many people did not bother.

About 7,300 people voted this year, compared to 44,000 people who voted in the last neighborhood board race in 2007.

"That is of great concern to me. It is disappointing, compared to two years ago," said Joan Manke of the city Neighborhood Commission.

Manke heads the commission that oversaw Internet voting. She said voters obviously did not know about or did not embrace the change to high-tech voting.

"This is the first time there is no paper ballot to speak of. So again, this is a huge change and I know that, and given the budget, this is a best that we could do," Manke said.

The city cut its expenses in half by using computers and phone technology by Everyone Counts. It cost about $95,000.

The question is whether the state and the counties will use the new voting technology to reach out to overseas voters, people who are not able to walk into voting booths like these to vote.

"This is the future for presidential elections, general elections, primary elections, all the way," Everyone Counts consultant Bob Watada said.

Watada is the former Campaign Spending Commission director.

"(It) gives access to a lot of people who haven't had the access, and you don't have the hanging chads, you don't have the miscounted absentee ballots, you don't have the ballots lost," he said.

More public education is needed to assure voters, who are used to going into voting booths that online voting is safe and easy, Watada said. However, that costs money, which is difficult to get in these tight budget times.


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