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Hawaii's 'Forbidden Island' Gets a Polling Place

September 17, 2002|From Associated Press

HONOLULU — Native Hawaiians on an exclusive island set up to seal out outside influences will be casting ballots in person this year for the first time in decades.

A voting machine and ballots will be flown to Niihau by helicopter, said Kauai County officials who oversee government services for the island.

Niihau, known as the "forbidden island," has 81 registered voters among its total population of 160 Native Hawaiian residents. The statewide primary for governor and other offices is Saturday.

Officials decided to have elections by machine after holding several discussions with residents on the privately owned island, Kauai County Deputy Clerk Ernest Pasion said. Previously, all voters on the island had to mail in their votes like absentee voters.

With no paved roads, telephone lines or electrical service, the 72-square-mile island lies just southwest of Kauai. It is the only island where Hawaiian is spoken as an everyday language and where a majority of residents voted against U.S. statehood in 1959.

It hasn't been resolved what time polling will close on Niihau. Polling originally was scheduled to close at noon to allow time for ballots to be brought back.

"It depends on how many come to the polls," Pasion said.

Not everyone is pleased with the system.

Bruce Robinson, who owns the island with his brother Keith, said he believes the government could better use the money. Robinson's helicopter will be used to ferry the machine and ballots to Niihau.

"If they want to spend the money on it or not, that's up to them, but it's been done in the past by absentee" voting, Robinson said. "It's way cheaper, way faster. Everything worked out better."

The Robinson family has owned Niihau, home to the last all-Hawaiian community, since 1864.

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