By Derrick DePledge
Hawaii is often the subject of criticism locally and nationally for perennial low-voter turnout.
But the remarkable defeat on Tuesday of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by economics professor Dave Brat in the Republican primary in Virginia provides some context.
Virginia's 7th Congressional District, which covers Richmond, the state capital, in the central portion of the state, has a population of about 738,355.
Voter turnout for Cantor's primary defeat on Tuesday was 65,022. While Brat's upset was a surprise, his campaign had attracted Tea Party support and was on the political radar both in Virginia and among conservatives nationally. Turnout was also higher on Tuesday than the 47,037 who voted in Cantor's easy primary victory in 2012.
Now compare Virginia to Hawaii during the 2012 primary election.
Hawaii's 1st Congressional District, which covers Honolulu, the state capital, has a population of about 692,981.
Voter turnout for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's primary victory over the unknown Roy "Sky" Wyttenbach II was 109,505. The primary attracted almost no media or public attention, since Hanabusa was heavily favored to win.
How about the 2010 primary in Hawaii?
Turnout for Hanabusa's primary victory over patients' advocacy attorney Rafael Del Castillo was 108,606. While Castillo was well-regarded by progressives, the primary was by no means a high-profile race.
So significantly more Hawaii voters chose to participate in sleepy, low-stakes primaries for Congress in 2012 and 2010 than Virginia voters who made political history on Tuesday by turning Cantor out.
While comparisons between states are often complicated -- there were competitive primaries for U.S. Senate in 2012 and governor in 2010, for example, that influenced turnout in Hawaii -- the numbers are interesting.