Party Favor? Independent Candidates Have A Tough Time In Hawaii Primary

Hawaii State Elections Office

Let's say you are a registered voter living in Palolo Valley on Oahu, and that you are committed to performing your civic duty Aug. 11 by voting in Hawaii's primary.

As an independent-minded voter, you've decided to vote for nonpartisan candidate Heath Beasley for the U.S. Senate, Republican Charles Djou for the 1st Congressional District, Green Party candidate Keiko Bonk for House District 20 and Democrat Les Ihara for Senate District 10.

When you arrive at your precinct at Palolo Elementary or Jarrett Middle School, however, you are told by officials that you can only choose one party's slate of candidates. That means that if you decide you want to vote for an independent candidate, like Beasley, you couldn't vote for anyone in any other race who is running as a Democrat, Republican or Green. You could still vote for mayor or city council, because those are nonpartisan races to begin with.

It's called an "open primary," yet voter options are limited.

It upsets independent candidates, who have to persuade voters to break their habit of voting for Democrats or Republicans and make the choice of not voting for anyone else in the primary races that have party candidates.

It also bothers party leaders who believe voters should support the party that best represents their values rather than cross over to vote for other candidates.

There are indications Hawaii's open primary also dampens voter turnout. Voting rates have dropped significantly since delegates at the 1978 Constitutional Convention (or "Con Con") decided to keep an open-primary system in order to preserve secrecy of voting and to safeguard the choice of party affiliation or nonpartisanship.

Many voters remain confused about the primary ballot, in spite of educational efforts on the part of the state Office of Elections.

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