Hawaii primary turnout and results showed frustration with 'political class'
From Grassroot Institute, August 20, 2020
UH political scientist Colin Moore shared his views with Keli'i Akina on why the state's first all mail-in election yielded so many surprises
Hawaii's most recent primary election achieved several milestones, and University of Hawaii political scientist Colin Moore discussed their significance this past Monday on Keli'i Akina's "Hawaii Together" program on the ThinkTech Hawaii network.
Moore, an associate professor and the director of the UH Public Policy Center, said perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Aug. 8 primary was the number of people who voted.
"We had over 400,000 people cast ballots" he said. "This was the first time we had an all mail-in voting system, and increased turnout like that is really extraordinary. … Our turnout increased from 2016, which was the last primary we had during a presidential election year, by nearly 17 percentage points, which has never happened in any other state. I mean, that's 150,000 new voters … [who] participated in 2020. That's like the entire island of Maui deciding to vote. So I think that had enormous implications for some of the things that happened in this primary."
Moore, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard and was a fellow at Yale and the University of California, Berkley, said the turnout might have been influenced by so many people being at home because of the coronavirus lockdowns. But more likely was the "incredible dissatisfaction with the state of politics in Hawaii," which also led to developments such as no veteran politicians making the runoff in the Honolulu mayor's race.
"There’s a very clear political class [in Hawaii] where [usually] people will move from one elected office to another, So this was a remarkable development," he said.
Similarly, House Speaker Scott Saiki, "arguably the third-most powerful figure in Hawaii politics," barely survived his primary challenge against Kim Coco Iwamoto. He won by only 200 votes, which, Moore said, "is almost unheard of."
Asked about the impact on the election of the COVID-19 crisis, Moore said it was tremendous:
"People feel public policy in a way that maybe we haven’t felt it in a hundred … maybe 50 years. There’s this visceral sense of how the decisions made by elected officials affect your daily life. … I think that has become so clear to people that they become more engaged in politics than they otherwise would, because they see really what the stakes are."
If you care about politics in Hawaii, this is an interview you won't want to miss.