The upcoming primary election has seen the highest number of registered voters in the state’s history, but two major storms on the way could make it difficult and even dangerous to get to the polls Saturday.
High winds and the possibility of flash flooding usually inspire people to hunker down. But usually, there isn’t a highly anticipated election happening the same day.
Will Iselle — currently a hurricane, and Julio — currently a tropical storm, drastically change voter turnout?
When the winds pick up, will voter turnout go down?
The State of Hawaii Office of Elections has been in daily contact with Hawaii civil defense officials discussing contingency plans in case stormy weather disrupts voters’ abilities to get to the polls.
“This is not like anything we’ve encountered before,” said Rex Quidilla of the Office of Elections. “We’re literally on top of the primary election.”
The Office of Elections has three possible mitigation strategies.
First, it could extend the polling hours, making it easier for people to find time to navigate their way to voting locations. Second, it could consolidate polling locations and third, it could postpone the election.
Quidilla said any of those options would be difficult and he doesn’t expect that the storms’ impact will be severe enough to require one.
“From the looks of it, Saturday is going to be OK,” he said.
Plenty of people have voted already, either by mail or early at polling places.
• Honolulu County has roughly 466,553 registered voters with approximately 111,000 having requested mail ballots. As of Monday, approximately 75,000 mail ballots had been received of the roughly 111,000 requested that were issued, or roughly 67 percent. As of today, approximately 8,800 people had cast early walk-in ballots
• In Kauai County, 1,767 walk-in voters had cast ballots as of Monday, and 5,886 of the 9,506 mail ballots had been received, or approximately 62 percent. Kauai’s total voter registration was 41,165.
In addition, a public service announcement was sent out “to encourage people to vote early and not brave the weather in case it’s nasty,” said Lyndon Oshioka of the Kauai County Clerk’s Office.
• The Hawaii County Clerk’s Office reported a total of 103,734 registered voters for the primary with approximately 22,260 people requesting mail ballots. As of yesterday 13,335 mail-in ballots had been received, or approximately 60 percent and 3,440 people had cast early walk-in ballots.
“We are speaking with civil defense and the state Elections Office” about possible contingency plans, said Pat Nakamoto of the Hawaii County Clerk’s Office.
• The Maui County Clerks Office is also speaking with civil defense and the state Elections Office. “It’s a day by day thing,” said a spokesperson. As of yesterday Maui County has received roughly half of the mail ballots it sent out, and they make up roughly a quarter of Maui’s approximately 85,500 registered voters.
Even in good weather, the state hasn’t typically had high voter turnout. Since the new millennium, turnout for a primary has yet to exceed 50 percent. In 2012, it was 42 percent.
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