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Elections the US way

Ioane Burese At The East West Centre, Honolulu, Hawai'i
Thursday, November 08, 2012

WE, the people, have spoken!

That's what the nameless American faces seemed to say as they filed out of polling booths early yesterday having completed their patriotic duty of choosing the man they want to install in the White House for the next four years.

In polling stations at the University of Hawaii, Kahala Elementary, Hahaione Elementary and Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate schools, the story was pretty much the same —people filed in quietly, produced ID cards and checked their names against the register.

They were given ballot papers and ushered into polling booths.

The curtains dropped behind them, they cast their vote and, like Elvis, they left the building just as calmly as they had entered.

Children tagged along with their parents straight into the booths.

On a leash, a dog, a Welsh border collie, wagged its tail, as if happy as its female owner to be there.

Together woman and beast headed into a booth.

On their way out, the woman and her canine companion met a blind man prodding the floor around him with his white cane.

They directed him easily to the officials who checked his name against the register and ushered him towards the Braille-equipped electronic voter machine.

He, too, cast his vote and left.

There were no security guards, no cops, no boss, no heavy-handedness, no confusion — just an efficiently-run operation presided over by smoothly-efficient officials mouthing clear, precise instructions if there was a need to.

There was laughter, not loud, as if people were genuinely happy to be there.

We — members of the Pacific delegation of journalists and election officials based at the East West Centre — had arrived unannounced and without any kind of identification.

But after a very brief introduction by the centre's Pacific Islands Development Program co-director, Dr Gerard Finin and project officer Scott Kroeker, the officials gladly invited us to monitor the proceedings.

Apart from being instructed against taking pictures, using mobile phones and getting in the way, we were granted free rein to wander around the station and ask all the questions we wanted.

They even let the women among us help direct the voters to the booths although with instructions that they not touch the voters.

It was a powerful and humbling experience — the word trust seemed to take on a totally different meaning.

By then the first of the projected results of the race between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney had started coming in.

It didn't look like it was going to be a long day although the result was still too early to call.

But I'm certain that by the time you finish reading this article, 'We, the people' would have spoken.

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