Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Hawaii democratic primary: It has never happened before

This is a good explanation as to why Barack is winning!

Just as Democratic Party caucus votes were scheduled to be cast around 7 p.m. last night, volunteers at Manoa Elementary School's cafeteria ran out of ballots and no more blue Democratic Party registration cards were to be found at Koko Head Elementary School. At Kawananakoa Middle School in Nu'uanu, overwhelmed volunteers opened the auditorium to handle the overflow crowd of at least 2,500 people. Voters at Kailua District Park used up all of the ballots around 7:30 p.m., and volunteers substituted them with pieces of yellow notebook paper. Those scenes were repeated across the Islands, where many caucus sites were overwhelmed by a turnout that few in the Democratic Party foresaw. "The decisionmakers were not prepared for the overwhelming response to this election," said Sharon Yarbrough, an Obama supporter who voted at Kawananakoa. There were long lines and confusion as many participants had to follow a three-step process: Verify that they were registered to vote, fill out blue cards to register for the Democratic Party and then sign in for the caucus. On Maui, caucus organizers at Baldwin High School also ran out of forms by 6:15 p.m., while more than 300 voters from Wailuku and Kahului were still waiting in line and dozens more filed in behind them. Caucus officials began signing people up on plain pieces of paper to accommodate the crowd, which one official described as "phenomenal." About 20 minutes after the caucus started at Manoa Elementary, it became clear there weren't going to be enough ballots for the more than 3,200 who had come out to pick a Democratic presidential nominee. People stood in a line that wrapped around the outdoor blacktop and playground area. Volunteers ran off to photocopy more ballots, which then had to be cut up. Soon after that, volunteers realized they were running out of Democratic Party sign-up forms. Next to go were the precinct sign-in forms, but that didn't matter much because by 7:30 p.m., U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie told voters not to worry about finding their precinct captains, who were lost among a crowd in the packed cafeteria. "Forget about the precinct. Just get a ballot and vote," he said. Kawananakoa Middle ran out of ballots and party registration forms briefly, but the school's principal made about 1,000 more copies of each in her office. "This is twice as bad as we thought it was going to be," said Patrick Stanley, Kawananakoa site coordinator. After the voting had ended, Stanley said the night was a learning experience. "It looked like total chaos," he said, adding the party would have to look at the voting to determine whether things could be made more streamlined, and added that in future caucuses a cut-off date to join the Democratic Party and register to vote might be more prudent.

To try to make the process more efficient last night, volunteers went up and down the line at Kawananakoa to see whether people were registered to vote and had joined the party. Many filled in the forms as they waited. Armen Martirosian, 29, filled out his form in line and waited for instructions on what to do next. This was his first caucus. "It never mattered before," he said, with a laugh. Many people trying to vote at the school were turned away because of a lack of parking. The parking lot was full by 6:30 p.m., and some people parked illegally outside the school. Police responded and issued more than 22 parking tickets to people who had parked illegally on Funchal Street or on the sidewalk, according to one of three officers issuing tickets. Dozens of people — many of them first-time caucusgoers — were frustrated with the lines, wait and confusion. At one point, when the cafeteria was brimming with people, a man stood on a table and shouted, "Vote! Vote! Vote" — urging organizers to start the voting. "It was a zoo," said longtime caucusgoer Mike Salling. "The Democratic Party has never experienced anything like this before. They were totally unprepared." Susan Baker, 44, was like many who came yesterday — unsure of how the caucus worked and unclear about what she needed to participate. She said she was hoping someone would come by her part of the line — all the way at the back — to tell her what she needed. "I'm not very sure how this works," she said. Others wandered around the cafeteria, looking for help. Volunteers joined party organizers in helping to direct people. Kat Lin Hurtubise, of the Obama campaign, was trying to direct people to their correct lines to sign up. "It's overwhelming," she said. But, she said, the turnout was also heartening. "It's awesome," she said. Three districts were assigned to Kawananakoa, making it difficult to ensure people were at the right site and voting in the right area of the cafeteria or auditorium.

Still, party officials said they were grateful to see so many people come out to vote. Brickwood Galuteria, former head of the Hawai'i Democratic Party who is now running for state office, was in line at the school and said the turnout was overwhelming. "I'm just elated," he said. Ian Colte, district chair for the caucus site at Mililani Waena Elementary School, said the caucus process wasn't designed to handle last night's turnout and that it illustrated the need to switch to a state-run primary. The school was overwhelmed with about 1,300 people, and ran out of ballots and party registration forms as hundreds of people stood in line. Organizers resorted to improvising with scraps of paper for ballots before volunteers made runs to the store to pick up reams of white paper and index cards and made copies of registration forms. "Some people walked away, some people voted but were really angry about how long it took," said Colte. "I think it's good for the vast majority of people that came out, but there are going to be some who might have been turned off." At Kapolei Middle School, where 640 voters crammed into the cafeteria, volunteers also ran out of ballots and blue Democratic Party registration cards and hastily made extras. Carolyn Golojuch, Kapolei Middle School's site coordinator, got on a public address system and encouraged voters to only cast one of the improvised ballots. "Remember, Democrats are honest," she said. "They don't vote more than once." Roger Steffani, of Kapolei, did not expect the scene he encountered at Kapolei Middle School. "I have no idea what to expect but I think it's pretty simple," Steffani said. "We're just going to vote." Rino Cadiz, of Makakilo, added, "Well, it's not planned out, I guess." Before the voting, some also raised concerns about the number of polling sites. Lori Allen, of Kaka'ako, said she was disappointed when she learned that her polling site was Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki. She was unable to vote because she couldn't get transportation to the school, she said. "I wonder how many more are out there like myself?" she asked. "I'm very disappointed."

Other related links:
Texas primary: The latest polls
Ohio primary
Wisconsin primary
Hawaii democratic caucus
Obama Vs Clinton
Delegates and popular vote (so far)
Game over for Hillary?
Checking the voting machines
Obama vs McCain
How California deligates are selected
The "eyes" of the future President in the US
The three H of John Edwards
Ralph Nader running again?
McCain on Israel

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