Election Brings Record Voter Turnouts
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Last week’s General Election brought record voter turnouts across the state as well as on Molokai. Despite the fact that Hawaii promoted 100 percent mail-in ballots this year, many voters still chose to vote in person at Voter Service Centers, and long lines as the 7 pm deadline on Nov. 3 approached at many locations, caused delays in results being reported.
On Molokai, 2,824 residents cast their votes by mail, while 538 visited the Voter Service Center at the Mitchell Pauole Center to vote in person.
In the 2016 General Election, Molokai voter turnout in all precincts hovered just under 30 percent, while in 2018, it averaged in the low 20 percent range.
This year, all Molokai precincts saw voter turnout by mail in the low 60 percent range, effectively doubling participating over recent years.
Across the nation, the U.S. waited in limbo for days in a very close presidential race, as states experienced delays in counting votes. Democrat Joe Biden has been named president-elect along with Kamala Harris as Vice President, making her the first Indian-American, the first African-American and the first female Vice President in U.S. history. The two will assume office on Jan. 20, 2021.
In the local election, Molokai’s incumbent Lynn DeCoite sailed into victory over her challengers, winning with 64.1 percent of the vote statewide, and will continue to serve as District 13 representative.
In the race for OHA Molokai Trustee seat, first-time candidate Luana Alapa edged out longtime OHA trustee Colette Machado. Alapa earned 34.3 percent of the votes statewide, and Machado closed with 26.7 percent across the state. On Molokai, Machado won in all the precincts except east Molokai. However, OHA trustee seats are voted on statewide, even for island-specific representation and Alapa carried the majority of votes statewide.
Machado has served in her position since being elected in 1996, offering a strong voice for Native Hawaiian rights and advocate for Molokai as OHA Chairperson.
Alapa, a former Miss Hawaii, taught modeling and pursued business and entertainment as a career. She campaigned with a message of bringing “transparency and accountability” to OHA.
“Millions of dollars are unaccounted for as defined in the latest audit and we can no longer afford to allow the mismanagement, misappropriations of funds to continue in this manner,” she said. “As trustee I would like to implement a forensic audit so we may know exactly who, what, when and how our beneficiaries monies have been used.”
She also promoted a focus on affordable housing for Native Hawaiians, saying she will work with “DHHL, local labor and the private sector to create an economical plan so that homesteaders currently waiting can obtain affordable housing that can be constructed perhaps through self-help, prefab/pre cut homes or in conjunction with local labor.”
Though her residency on Molokai has been questioned, she said she currently lives on five acres of her late father Stanley Alapa’s homestead in Ho’olehua and grew up splitting her time between Molokai and Oahu.
“I would like to help ensure our Hawaiian community — Molokai especially — is fairly served through open door policy- community members able to express and share their concerns with me with viable solutions that are attainable and made a reality,” she said. “By improving the quality of life for our Hawaiian beneficiaries through affordable housing, jobs, job training, education, health and dental care, and financial education, we will then be assured that a bright future will be secured not just for themselves but also their children and those yet to be born. The goal of raising and sustaining the highest quality of life for our Hawaiian people will be my ultimate mission as trustee.”
In the highly contested Molokai seat on the Maui County Council, incumbent Keani Rawlins-Fernandez won by an eight-point margin country-wide over former councilmember Stacy Helm Crivello. Rawlins-Fernandez earned 44.3 percent of votes while Helm Crivello finished with 36.8 percent. On Molokai, precinct results were split between the two candidates, with east and west Molokai areas favoring Rawlins-Fernandez, while Kaunakakai, Ho’olehua and Kualapu’u regions showed a majority of votes for Helm Crivello.
Helm Crivello served on the County Council from 2013 to 2018, when Rawlins-Fernandez edged her out for reelection by garnering a majority of votes on Maui. This year Helm Crivello sought to recover her seat but again lost to the now-experienced Rawlins-Fernandez.
“My top priorities include economic recovery, affordable housing and quality of life for our residents,” said Rawlins-Fernandez. “This term I led the establishment of tiered property taxes, which enabled council to substantially decrease taxes for our residents and local businesses during our communities greatest time of need; and I am now working diligently to increase long-term rental opportunities for our residents. A strong economy helps keep people in homes, mortgages, rents, utilities paid and businesses thriving. I plan to continue exploring ways for us to manage the tourism industry, to protect our environment, natural resources and way of life.”
Rawlins-Fernandez said in her last term, she worked to be “inclusive of everyone,” hosted monthly town hall meetings and supported community working groups which spearheaded “Molokai’s first climate resiliency summit, initiated a smokeless incinerator project at our landfill, and successfully funded a Molokai Climate Resiliency Plan that has created jobs on-island.”
“Molokai is assured a strong voice and the ability to participate in issues that matter the most to our community now more than ever, because I spearheaded the transition to remote online meetings, to accept live public testimony from wherever a testifier is, making it easier to testify and offer mana’o in all deliberations,” she said.