Thursday brings another key deadline at the Hawaii Legislature for bills to advance or die.

Unbelievably, one of those that appears dead on arrival is House Bill 2541, which calls for enacting voting by mail uniformly across all counties starting with the 2020 elections.

It passed the House of Representatives with only a handful of votes against — from three of the five Republicans, as it turns out. The support for passage was overwhelming and included the State Office of Elections and the four county clerks.

The reasons for passage are obvious: Voting by mail would cost much less and likely increase turnout — no small thing, given our state’s dismal record on that account.

But the state Senate chose not to hear HB 2541, and Senate officials won’t say why. 

Capitol marijuana working group vote.
There is still time for Hawaii lawmakers to revive all-mail-voting legislation. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

There is still a glimmer of hope, however. A move is afoot to reconsider a very similar all-mail-voting measure, House Bill 1401. That one also died on the last day of conference committee a year ago, the third year in a row that such a bill failed to fly at the Capitol.

But HB 1401 carried over to the 2018 session, and under legislative rules the House and Senate can appoint new conferees to work out their differences on the legislation. The hangups appear to be implementation and financial concerns.

We urge legislators to resurrect HB 1401, fix the problems, pass the bill and send it to Gov. David Ige for his signature. At a time when more people in Hawaii are choosing to vote absentee than show up at the polls, the trend line is clear.

HB 1401 would also set up voter service centers that would remain open for the 10 business days preceding election day. The centers would allow voters to deliver their ballot personally, accommodate voters with special needs and offer same-day registration and voting.

To make sure the system is working, the Office of Elections would be required to report back to the Legislature how implementation went.

This is the second time in two months Civil Beat has editorialized in favor of all-mail elections. There are only good reasons for enacting this legislation.

To spur things along, we encourage residents to contact these key leaders to urge them to pass HB 1401:

It will only take a few minutes to call or email these lawmakers. It’s easy … almost as easy as voting by mail.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

About the Author