Rafael Del Castillo, Miles Shiratori, Kawika Crowley, Matthew DiGeronimo.
It's a safe bet that most Hawaii residents signed up to vote in 2012 don't recognize those names. Nor would they be familiar with Michael Gillespie, Antonio Gimbernat or Art Reyes.
Del Castillo and Shiratori are Democratic candidates while Crowley and DiGeronimo are Republican candidates in the races for U.S. House/2nd District or U.S. Senate. None has established a public presence for the offices on ballots in Hawaii's Aug. 11 primary election. They aren't helped when commercial media in Hawaii have ignored them as minor candidates. Local television producers have sponsored debates and conversations among the "major" candidates without mentioning the candidates who aren't included.
Those candidates haven't demonstrated any seriousness of purpose in having their names on the ballots, suggesting their nominations have more to do with personal egos than with serving public purpose. Still, ballot clutter could affect the polling by distracting a few thousand uninformed voters - those who get information only from television or from friends and associates.
Excess of choices, all male, may skew the outcome against the women running for office. Also, just having more than two candidates may be counterproductive for voters when the choices represent an array of options.
In a 2011 study, political scientists Chappell Lawson and Gabriel Lenz say "low-information" voters make judgments based on a candidate's looks, favoring those who are physically attractive. The study also found that women candidates don't do as well in actual voting, even if they are seen as attractive.
"Most female candidates fare relatively better when we ask people to rate the faces, but then generally underperform their male counterparts in actual elections," Lenz said ("Face Value," July 18, 2011, MIT News Office).
In an analysis of how multiple choices can distort results, mathematician Ian Stewart says having more than two choices can result in a less-favored candidate winning by plurality - getting the most votes even if the vote total is less than 50 percent.
In the 2nd District House race, for instance, three major candidates - Tulsi Gabbard, Bob Marx and Esther Kia'aina - say they would work to rescind the federal Defense of Marriage Act as a violation of civil rights of same-sex couples. Mufi Hannemann is equivocal, saying he personally opposes same-sex marriage.
Voters who see an equal rights issue are likely to divide their votes, diluting support for Gabbard, Marx and Kia'aina, while Hannemann can be expected to reap votes of those for whom equal rights is not an issue. That may allow him to win based on a plurality of votes rather than a majority who vote for one of the other three.
"Simple plurality voting produced an anomalous outcome," Stewart says, when more voters are divided among more than two choices ("Electoral dysfunction," April 28, 2010, New Scientist). Media also have persuaded voters to think that positions on issues are important, although psychologist Michael Kraus suggests that an analysis of each candidate's character may be more important. Character is a major consideration in determining whether a candidate will follow through on generic campaign positions, he says.
"At election time, vote for the candidate who helps Army veterans rather than the one who merely poses for pictures with them. These people will serve you better," Kraus says.
That's not how people vote.
"As psychologists have discovered, appearances are everything. Studies show that when choosing between election candidates, voters are strongly persuaded by facial form, even though the face is not likely to be a reliable indicator of someone's competence or intelligence," he says.
Citing a study by Dutch psychology professor Barbora Nevicka, Kraus notes that voters "tend to pick narcissists because of their confident and dominating manner. . . . This is unfortunate because narcissists' preoccupation with their own importance makes them poor at encouraging free exchange of ideas, a key aspect of good leadership" ("Good leaders don't have to be bad people," Sept. 27, 2011, New Scientist; "Narcissists look like good leaders but they aren't," Aug. 9, 2011, Psychological Science).
* Edwin Tanji is a former city editor of The Maui News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. "Haku Mo'olelo," "writing stories," is about stories that are being written or have been written. It appears every Friday.
* This column includes a correction from the original published on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. The party affiliation of Matthew DiGeronimo and Kawika Crowley was incorrectly identified. The Maui News apologizes for the error.