HONOLULU (KHON2) — Voter turnout patterns showed a bit of pushback against early voting, with more than 10,000 people casting their ballots in person on Election Day.
Hawaii is just two election cycles in with “all-mail” voting so it’s too soon to confirm if this is a trend that will stick. But we wanted to know how officials plan to ease the process no matter how or when choose to vote.
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Ballots are still being counted but as of midday Wednesday, turnout was just over 47 percent, way down from the nearly 70 percent turnout in the 2020 general election, though presidential years do trend higher.
Notably, more than 10,000 people voted in person at voter service centers statewide yesterday, far surpassing the 6,600 who voted that way in all the weeks leading up to Election Day.
“I hope that this sends a message to the city and county and the state that there is a huge demand for people to come out and vote on election day, and this is not making it easily, unfortunately,” said former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was casting her vote in-person Tuesday.
Voter-advocacy groups and individuals have been pushing for the legislature to require more voter service centers, ever since hundreds of polling places were phased out when the state moved to a primarily mail-in format a couple of years ago.
But in the two primaries and two general elections since then, we’ve seen thousands of people still want to vote in person, the majority of them on Election Day. That’s made for a repeat of long lines and long waits especially at Kapolei and on Maui.
“The problem is it’s just a lot of people might drive by and say, ‘Hey, I don’t have time to wait in line, I gotta go pick up my kid, or I gotta get home and make dinner,’ “ Gabbard said. “So I really hope that they actually reopen up in-person voting for all these people who value that opportunity.”
In addition to the 10,000 people who voted in person yesterday, around 100,000 ballots were either mailed or dropped off on or so close to Election Day that they were counted in the later results printouts reserved for the later votes.
That means that early voting made up for less than 80 percent of votes cast — a big drop from the primary — and it made a difference in results patterns in a handful of races and charter amendments.
KHON2 asked the state’s top vote official how the process can be more accommodating to Election-Day voters, whether it’s more locations or more help at the few sites offered.
“It is something that the clerks need to look at. I’m sure they will look at it,” said Chief Election Officer Scott Nago. “A one-hour wait is not something that they will take lightly, and they would look at that to improve for 2024.”
Since Maui has been affected by the long lines over and over, we asked Maui Mayor-Elect Richard Bissen if he would work with the county clerk to try to open up more same-day voter service centers.
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“I think that’s what the public wants,” Bissen said, “and I think we should always be mindful of what we can do to make it — I don’t want to say the word convenient — but to help our voters be able to submit their ballots.”