It’s my intention right now to leave the Honolulu mayor section on my General Election ballot blank. It will be the first time I left any ballot choice blank since the old days when I really didn’t know squat about any of the OHA candidates — when non-Hawaiians were first cleared to vote in that election.
I know it’s generally frowned upon to submit blank ballots. The thinking is that somebody is going to be elected, so you might as well have your reluctant choice counted. In this race, however, neither candidate strikes me as highly qualified and neither has notable following.
The two only managed just short of 46% of the primary vote between them — meaning that 54% of you wanted somebody else? That says forgetaboutit. Who cares?
My issues — and maybe those of many of the 56% — are that Rick Blangiardi has absolutely no government experience for handling the serious budgetary and policy matters created by the pandemic. Keith Amemiya has very limited government experience as one member on two City commissions and steerage of NCAA public school athletics.
Amemiya ran an insurance holding company. Blangiardi two television stations. So what? I twice temporarily ran a multi-million-dollar TV news operation, but I sure don’t know a damn thing about keeping the rail project going while finding money for all those City worker salaries and benefits. And I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know.
True, one of those men will be elected. He’d be elected if he just got two votes and the other got one. But my blank ballot could be one of, say, 100,000 or more. That would certainly send a message of popular discontent or that ainokea movement.
I’d have preferred Colleen Hanabusa or Kym Pine or even Mufi Hannemann at this scary Covid moment. If you love “fresh faces” why not Bud Stonebraker or Choon James? A minister and a community advocate. And you couldn’t have gotten anyone “fresher” than David Duke Bourgoin! John Carroll has gotten a bit dotty but at least he worked on public budgets years ago as a state senator. That’s a lot more relevant background than either Amemiya’s or Blangiardi’s. Hanabusa, Pine and Hannemann have wrestled with government budgets for many years.
I’m thinking back to 2008 when voters rebelled in City Council District 5. Duke Bainum was running unopposed and was guaranteed to win. A group called “Voice for Choice” claimed it did not oppose Bainum but rather the process that kept Kirk Caldwell from running against him. Bainum had gotten on the ballot at the last minute, but Caldwell did not, leaving some residents upset over the election rules. When it was over, only 20,238 people had voted for Bainum — 57% of the vote. There were 15,114 blank ballots, or 43% of the vote. Not exactly a vote of full confidence!
What’s called an “intentional undervote” — leaving part of your ballot blank does not affect your votes on other portions of the ballot. They will be counted.
I’d prefer Ranked Choice Voting instead of our primary system. In that, voters pick a first-choice candidate and have the option to rank backup candidates in order of their choice: second, third, and so on. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an “instant runoff.” The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes.
A couple of experts on American voting habits found that on average 30% of you leave some part of your ballots in our system blank. Usually, they say, in local rather than national elections.
The two are David Axelrod, a Democrat and director of the public Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, and Mike Murphy, Republican and longtime consultant to governors and senators. They write:
“Our decades in politics, advising candidates at the local, state, and national level, have taught us that elected officials matter all the way down the ballot. They make decisions that affect our lives every day — from monitoring water quality to levying taxes and deciding how that money will be used to choose the leadership of our schools. If these officials make poor policy decisions, the consequence can be costly.”
I agree. But this is my first Hawaii voting year in which I ask myself “can either of these mayor candidates be trusted to make the big decisions ahead on taxes, spending and schools that will be needed because of the virus disruption?”
I came up with a “no.”
If the winner turns out to be great, I’ll congratulate him on graduating into the Qualified Class.
If not, I’ll be able to say “I didn’t vote for him.”