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While the U.S. presidential campaign has garnered a large share of the political attention this year, there are plenty of candidates in Hawaii for offices ranging from the U.S. Senate to county councils.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8, a date set by federal law and the same throughout the nation. In Hawaii, the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In 1960, 93 percent of Hawaii’s registered voters went to the polls in the general election. But in 2012, only about 62 percent of registered voters bothered to show up on Election Day. That dropped again in 2014 — only about 52 percent of the 706,000 people registered to vote in Hawaii that year cast a ballot in the general election.
Hawaii has notoriously had one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country. But in recent years, the Legislature has taken steps to put in place strategies aimed at boosting voter participation.
Every election, more Hawaii voters are casting their ballots by mail and voting early, sometimes even several weeks before Election Day. The Legislature has even considered a move to all-mail voting as a way to increase voter turnout and save potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars every election.
The 2016 Races
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is on the ballot again even though he was most recently up for a vote in 2014. Schatz was appointed to the Senate in 2012 to fill the seat that came open when longtime Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye died in office. The 2014 election — in which Schatz defeated then-U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa — was a special election to fill out the remainder of Inouye’s term. The 2016 race is a contest for a full six-year term in that office.
In the 1st Congressional District covering urban Oahu, there are actually two elections Nov. 8 for the same position due to the death of Rep. Mark Takai. One is a special election to fill out the remainder of Takai’s current term, which expires Jan. 3, 2017. The other is the regular election for a two-year term beginning later in January. Hanabusa is among the candidates in both elections.
In the 2nd Congressional District covering rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is seeking re-election.
In the Legislature, all 51 state House seats are up for election this year along with 14 of the state Senate’s 25 seats.
And in the Honolulu mayor’s race, incumbent Kirk Caldwell is in a runoff with former Congressman Charles Djou after they emerged from an 11-candidate field as the two top vote-getters in the primary.
In addition to candidates, there will also be various measures on the Nov. 8 ballot, including two statewide measures and, on Oahu, 20 charter amendments proposed by the Honolulu Charter Commission.
Civil Beat’s Election Guide
The Hawaii Office of Elections website is the best place to find any information you need about the elections including how and when to register, how to find your polling place and when you can begin casting your ballot.
Meanwhile, here are some other resources we’ve put together to help you through the 2016 election:
Unofficial 2016 General Election Ballot: Our way to help you keep track of races and candidates in your district. We have once again sent out questionnaires to candidates, asking them to give us their positions on key issues that are particular to the office they’re running for. You can find links to these Q&As on this page.
2016 Ballot Measures: This year, the Honolulu Charter Commission put 20 questions on the Nov. 8 ballot for voters to weigh in on. The Legislature added two more statewide constitutional amendments. This link will take you to a page where you can read our coverage of many of the measures.
Ad Watch: A viewer’s guide to campaign videos and political ads. We regularly analyze campaign commercials with an eye toward substance, tone, message and accuracy — whatever you need to know about an ad when you see it online or on TV. The federal government now requires TV stations to report political advertising spending and schedules online.
Cashing In: Tracking political spending through state and federal campaign finance records. We review and analyze the campaign spending reports filed at various times of the year to report who is financing candidates and their campaigns. We look at political action committees and independent expenditure committees, too.
The Civil Beat Poll: We conduct our own independent polls on a variety of topics and issues as election season moves along. Check here to read about what Hawaii thinks about statewide and local races and issues.
Civil Beat Politics: Learn more about candidates and issues by joining our new Facebook Group, Civil Beat Politics. We aim to promote civil — yet spirited — discussion of and participation in the 2016 election. You can air your thoughts on campaigns, candidates and issues along with your friends, colleagues and even political rivals. But it’s also a place to connect with others in the community who want to become more active in this year’s elections.
Both the state and the federal government impose contribution limits when giving directly to candidates. Money has been flowing to candidates and political committees for the 2016 election. You can follow the money yourself on a number of online campaign and political sites: