Voting By Mail Process In Hawaii Still Needs Work


About the Authors

Umi Kai

Umi Kai is a Hawaiian artist. His work is at Bishop Museum and he has won national awards.

Corie Tanida

Corie Tanida is a former Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaii and she is an ardent fan of voting by mail.


It has been noted by many that local government must adjust to new realities. But is that happening?

In this inaugural year of vote-by-mail, despite getting more than $3 million in federal funds for election security, the state Office of Elections and county clerks announced in their May 15, 2020, proclamation that there will only be eight — yes, just eight — voter service centers state-wide, with only two on Oahu.

This is not the “new normal.” This is business as usual and it imperils our democracy.

Legislators must make sure that some of the CARES Act election security funding goes to ensuring more service centers with adequate staffing for longer hours.

Protect our democracy: fund counties to ensure safe voter access and participation.

Lawmakers’ foresight in enacting vote-by-mail is looking more and more like a very smart move that will protect democracy — and public health — in this era of COVID-19. But their prescience will be pointless if we do not do more to ensure that people are adequately informed.

What the Office of Elections cannot, or will not do themselves, county offices can. So, please let us direct some of the election security funding to the counties.

Voters In Disbelief

In addition to more voter service centers and drop boxes, counties can use those funds to beef up their staffing and training for the elections, get PPE, purchase cleaning materials, and ramp up education so everyone knows that we are now in a vote-by-mail world.

Our totally unscientific polling of friends and acquaintances, random people at church and in the neighborhood, cashiers at the supermarket, cleaners and security staff at various buildings has been met with almost universal disbelief.

“You mean I cannot just go to my usual polling place to vote?” they ask.

One older gentleman expressed his certainty that he will be voting at the same place he has always voted — right after listening to a public announcement that Hawaii has switched to vote by mail.

People take time to adjust to change. Let’s not suppress the vote of those who are already struggling to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. Some constituents want the satisfaction of dropping off their vote on Election Day. We should respect that by providing more drop boxes and voter support centers.

In this highly significant election season, providing in-person options will alleviate any problems that may arise with the mail-in process, such as ballots that fail to arrive, and reassure voters – rural, minority communities, younger voters, and those who do not have confidence that their ballots will be counted if returned via mail.

We can also strengthen access to voting by passing the automatic voter registration bill, Senate Bill 2005 which, if passed, would go into effect in 2021. It calls for no budget allocations.

Let’s not suppress the vote of those already struggling to deal with the pandemic.

There is no reason to not pass AVR this year so that we reach more voters automatically when they go to renew their driver’s license or get their state ID. There is always the freedom to opt out of being automatically registered to vote.

One of the clichés of this crisis is the insistence by the authorities that “We are all in this together.” Let’s insist then that lawmakers put some power behind the platitude by spending the federal monies allocated to Hawaii to ensure we are indeed all in this together when it comes to making voting more accessible.

Fund counties now. They are the ones who can create a new normal for our beleaguered democracy. We have seen the debacle in other states: Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada.

Let’s not add Hawaii to the list of states that have proved unequal to the challenge of ensuring that everyone who wants to vote, can do so.

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About the Authors

Umi Kai

Umi Kai is a Hawaiian artist. His work is at Bishop Museum and he has won national awards.

Corie Tanida

Corie Tanida is a former Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaii and she is an ardent fan of voting by mail.


Latest Comments (0)

In the last few months the office of elections sent all registered voters signature cards that were expected to be signed and returned. As such the number of cards returned would give one a more finite understanding of how the public has or has not embraced mail in voting. If enough people have not sent back their cards an outreach program directly targeting them would be a great place to focus your concerns.

BigIslandGrown · 1 month ago

I'm one of the many folks who attended training to be a mail-in-ballot counter for the 2018 election cycle.  I experienced first-hand what happens to mailed-in ballots.  The office responsible for counting the ballots has a first-rate process to include over-seeing those who count the ballots with trained volunteers from both parties watching people who count the ballots.The process of counting mailed in ballots has a number of steps - all observed and recorded by election officials. I was so impressed by their well thought-out system that I'll be one of the trained counters for the 2020 election cycle.Mail voting is far less effort than in-person voting.  No line waiting.  No driving / parking issues.

Soul · 1 month ago

The public's confidence in the integrity of our democratic process is already at a record low, which makes the switch to mail-in voting not only a step in the wrong direction, but also a step taken at one of the worst possible times in the history of our republic, the coronavirus crisis notwithstanding. Personally, I feel insulted and disenfranchised by mail-in voting.

Chiquita · 1 month ago

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