East Hawaii News

Hilo, Kona and Early Voters Help Carry Kenoi to Win

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The mayor’s race in Tuesday’s election was a hard-fought battle, with only 1,437 votes separating the contenders out of a total of 62,157 votes cast.

The final ballot printout issued at 2:57 a.m. today showed only a 1.2% margin between Mayor Billy Kenoi and former mayor Harry Kim. Another 1,617 ballots were left blank.

As expected, an increasing number of Big Island voters took advantage of early voting.

And when it came to the mayor’s race, those who did tended to favor incumbent Billy Kenoi.

Election returns show a total of 31,726 ballots were cast through either mailed absentee ballots or early walk-in voting, representing 30.4% of the 104,323 registered voters on the island.


That meant about half of the votes were cast early, as 30.7% of registered voters voted on Election Day, bringing the total turnout for the election to 61.1%.

During the last presidential election in 2008, 28% of the voters chose early-voting methods. That percentage dropped to 20% in the 2010 mid-term election.

An analysis by Big Island Now revealed that although the areas were mixed, Kenoi carried 24 of the island’s 40 regular precincts Tuesday in both mailed absentee ballots and early walk-in voting.

Nowhere was that trend more obvious than in the “pocket” precincts. Voters in those areas, which because of their small numbers had no physical voting location, had to cast their ballots either by absentee or early walk-in voting.


Kenoi carried both methods of voting in two of Hilo’s three pocket precincts. There were no votes cast in the third because that area had no registered voters, election officials said.

When it came to election-day voting, Kenoi carried 22 precincts while Kim carried 18.

Support overall for Kenoi was particularly strong in Kona, including the precinct at the West Hawaii Civic Center where he garnered 62% of the precinct vote, and up into South Kohala.

He also had strong support in Hilo’s Keaukaha precinct and in mauka areas of the city.


Puna went solidly for Kim where he carried virtually every precinct, and most of the early voting as well.

When it came to Hamakua, Kim may have benefited from an endorsement he received from County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong shortly after the primary election.

Of the votes cast at the Honokaa High School precinct in Yagong’s hometown, 59.5% of the non-blank votes went to Kim compared to 39.3% for Kenoi.

It was much the same in neighboring areas of the Hamakua coast including Paauilo and Papaaloa, where precinct voters went for Kim and early voters were more evenly split. At the Honohina Hongwanji precinct in Ninole, 62% of the votes were cast for Kim.

However, that wasn’t the case in Waimea, which went solidly for Kenoi.

Kim carried most of South Kona and Ka`u except for the precinct at Ka`u High School in Pahala, where voters using all three methods went overwhelmingly for Kenoi.

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