[Ed. Note: After we published this post, Dick Mayer said he’d made an error by including blank votes in the Percent Yes calculations. We’ve updated the post to include his revised, and simplified, numbers.]
Dick Mayer likes numbers. “They’re fun for me to look at,” he told me.
Mayer’s a former UH Maui College economics professor as well as observer and analyst of Maui elections since the 1970s. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to get an email from him this afternoon that included a colorful spreadsheet he put together breaking down precinct numbers from the Nov. 4 Maui GMO Initiative election.
The numbers are fascinating and show in mathematical detail the dimensions of the county’s divide on the issue of growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
According to Mayer’s data:
• Voters approved of the Maui GMO Initiative in slightly less than half (16) of Maui County’s 34 precincts.
• Voters rejected the initiative in the lone Lanai precinct (47 percent in favor) and in all of four of Molokai’s precincts (one precinct, Kilohana Center, narrowly rejected the measure 185 to 182).
• All four of South Maui’s four precincts–where GMOs are grown–voted in favor of the initiative (approval percentages ranged from 54 percent to 61 percent).
• None of Kahului’s four precincts–where many ag workers live–voted for the initiative. Indeed, the measure seemed especially unpopular here, with just 32 percent to 36 percent of voters marking the Yes box.
• Just one Wailuku’s seven precincts (Waihee Elementary School) voted for the initiative (57 percent). In the rest, percentages of people voting for the measure ranged from 39 percent to 47 percent.
• All five West Maui precincts–which have neither GMO fields nor workers–voted in favor of the GMO Initiative, with approval percentages in the winning precincts ranging from 50 percent to 61 percent (one precinct, Lahaina Intermediate, approved the measure 455 to 450).
• Upcountry was slightly more divided, with four of six precincts approving the measure.
• All three of East Maui’s precincts voted for the initiative. Indeed, the Haiku precinct–the largest on the island with 6,552 registered voters (3,530 of which voted on Tuesday)–was overwhelmingly for the initiative, with 74 percent voting yes.
• The initiative was most popular at the Hana School precinct, where 565 of the 715 (81 percent) voters checked yes. The initiative was least popular at the Kaunakakai precinct on Molokai, where just 351 of 1,233 voters (29 percent) checked yes.
• Not one of the 152 people who voted at the Spreckelsville precinct left the GMO Initiative box blank (55.9 percent of those voting clicked yes).
Indeed, Mayer called the tiny distribution of blank votes on the GMO measure across all Maui County precincts “astounding.”
“It was about two percent, an extremely low percentage,” Mayer said. “When you look at the other races, they show 12, 13 percent blank votes. But everyone had an opinion on this subject.”
As for what happens now–beyond the threat of a lawsuit leveled by Monsanto on Wednesday morning–remains to be seen. County officials say they’ll defend the initiative in court, though their official statements betray at least some reluctance.
“Maui County has held internal meetings for months now in regards to the enforcement of the GMO initiative,” County Communications Director Rod Antone said in a Nov. 6 statement. “We are finalizing how much manpower, resources and equipment is needed to carry out this task and once that is done we will need to get council approval for a budget amendment. We’re also going over the bill for any legalities and/or inconsistencies.”
County Managing Director Keith Regan said much the same thing. “We want to assure people that we’re taking this initiative very seriously,” he said in a Nov. 6 statement. “The people have spoken and the county is obligated to carry out their will. Hopefully now we can move forward and our community can heal from this divisive issue.”
Photo: Seanpanderson/Wikimedia Commons