Starting with the 2020 primaries, all statewide elections in Hawai‘i will be conducted by mail, pursuant to Act 136, Session Laws of Hawai‘i 2019 (HB1248, CD1). This will be a big change for some Hawai‘i voters, especially those who are not accustomed to voting by absentee ballot. For those who vote by absentee ballot, the all vote-by-mail system is nothing new.

However, for Hawai‘i voters who are used to standing in lines at polling places with family, friends and neighbors on Election Day to cast their vote, get ready to fill out your ballots in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Vote-By-Mail requires that a ballot package be mailed to registered voters approximately three weeks before Election Day — either primary or general. Each ballot package shall include a ballot, a secrecy envelope, a business reply return envelope and voting instructions.

Registered voters will complete the ballots, insert them in the secrecy envelopes so that the completed ballots will be kept private and then place the secrecy envelopes with ballots in the business reply envelopes. Registered voters are required to sign the return the envelopes or the ballots will not be counted.

All ballots must be received by the Clerk’s Office by 7pm on Election Day. Do not mail your completed ballots the day of the election, because they will not be received in time and your ballots will not be counted. Mail your completed ballots to the Clerk’s Office at least three days before Election Day. The voter’s signature on the return envelope will be verified against the signature on file in your voter registration record.

If a mistake is made on the ballot, do not try to correct the ballot, which may result in a spoiled ballot. Instead, contact the County Clerk’s Office for a replacement ballot.

Additionally, once the ballot is received, the County Clerk’s Office may contact you to remedy any problems with the ballot. This may require visiting a Voter Service Center (VSC). The City and County of Honolulu has designated at least two VSCs — Honolulu Hale (530 S. King St.) and Kapolei Hale (1000 Uluohia St. in Kapolei). Note that the VSCs will replace traditional Election Day polling places.

VSCs will be open 10 business days (weekdays only) prior to and through each Election Day. At the VSCs, people may register to vote, including same-day voter registration, vote in-person, hand-deliver their ballots in-person or correct their ballots if they are summoned to do so.

Other jurisdictions that have implemented Vote- By-Mail (Colorado, Oregon and Washington) have some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation, a median 15% higher turnout rate during the 2018 primaries than the remaining polling place states. Hawai‘i’s Vote-By-Mail will increase our voter engagement by giving our voters more ways and days to participate in our democratic process and reduce costs of operating traditional polling places. Common Cause Hawai‘i looks forward to more people voting in Hawai‘i!

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