Chad Blair: Why Do So Many Hawaii Voters Wait Until The Last Minute? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

The deadline to vote in Hawaii’s general election was 7 p.m. Tuesday, but — once again — long lines of people still waiting to cast their ballots on Oahu and Maui delayed the reporting results until nearly 8:30 p.m.

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That’s frustrating to lots of folks, especially media eager to post the election results immediately and, obviously, all of the candidates and their supporters.

But election officials are required by state law to allow qualified voters who are still in line at 7 p.m. to vote, although anyone after that time will be turned away.

“We are never going to put out results prior to people finishing voting,” said Scotty Anderson, chair of the volunteer Elections Commission. “If people want to stand in line for a kajillion hours, that is their right, even though I personally never understand it.”

But Anderson believes that the more comfortable Hawaii becomes with mail-in voting, the more people will begin to vote that way instead of in person.

The 2022 election is only the second election cycle where mail-in voting was implemented statewide. While the 2020 general election results were not posted until around 11:30 p.m., Anderson notes that the first round of the 2022 primary results in August came before 8 p.m.

And, while turnout was a disappointing 48% on Tuesday, nearly all of it came through the mail or drop boxes. The in-person turnout was a mere 1.9%, according to the most recent printout posted late Wednesday. In the 2020 general election, the in-person turnout was 3.5%. That’s encouraging.

Excuses, Excuses

There are many arguments for doing away with mail-in voting, including that same-day voting fosters a sense of community and tradition, and that elections should not be decided until the end of the election.

There are also discredited theories in Republican circles that mail-in balloting is prone to fraud. But mail-in voting — or voting absentee, as it was called — has been around for a very long time.

Same goes for voting early, and in person. Hawaii’s voting centers were opened 10 days before election day and included same-day registration. And Tuesday was also a state holiday. If a voter was stuck in line that night, it was likely their choice that led them there.

Election, Ballot, Midterms, lines, Honolulu Hale
On election night in Honolulu lines formed and ran throughout Honolulu Hale in order to accommodate those that had left casting their ballot to almost the last minute. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

As a commenter on a recent Civil Beat story put it: “There are many legitimate complaints that can be made directly at the Elections Office. But I’m starting to get tired of those complaints from those choosing to vote in-person, & all of the problems associated with that choice. There’s not enough voting centers. The traffic to get to the voting center is terrible. The lines are so long. It’s so confusing to know which line to stand in (becuz I’m too afraid to ask). It’s so hot. It’s so cold.”

This person concluded, “Enough! All of these problems would not exist for you if you simply choose to mail in your ballot.”

Not only has voting become easier, voters are also able to track the status of their ballot to make sure it is received and processed.

“My dad was the precinct chair for Kihei, and he would drive little old ladies to the voting booth,” Anderson recalled. “But you don’t have to do that anymore. Just stick it in the mail. It’s so fast.”

Anderson also points out that switching to mail-in balloting saves the state (that is, taxpayers) $800,000 per election cycle.

Meanwhile, Hawaii News Now reported that new “Remote Rally” technology used by the Elections Office helped deliver voting results from remote areas swiftly and directly to county centers.

“In previous elections, after the polls closed, ballots from Molokai and Lanai had to be flown to Maui to be processed. And on Hawaii Island, the ballots had to be driven from Kona to Hilo, where the service center is located,” Lynn Kawano reported. “All this used to delay results for those counties on election night.”

Hawaii Pau Already

Voting systems are decided by individual states, and 46 of them along with the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands offer early in-person voting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this includes states with all-mail elections.

Different systems mean different outcomes depending on the state, of course. Arizona’s U.S. Senate race was not concluded until late Friday, but its race for governor was not yet tabulated. A U.S. Senate race in Nevada was not finalized until late Saturday, while Georgia has scheduled a Senate runoff for early December. And the fate of control of the U.S. House, while narrowly leaning toward a GOP takeover, was similarly delayed.

But we do know how all of Hawaii’s races turned out, including the fact that the GOP now has six seats in the 51-member state House and two in the 25-member state Senate, although we did not know until late Wednesday that incumbent Democrat Gil Riviere would lose to Republican Brenton Awa.

And another senator, incumbent Democrat Maile Shimabukuro, survived a recount against Republican Samantha DeCorte.

Barring any last-minute challenges, the final statewide results will be certified later this month. In spite of all the doubters and deniers, I’d say Hawaii’s election integrity looks pretty solid.


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

The Federal Election Day is established by Title 2, Chapter 1, § 7 of the United States Code, which states:Note that the law says "the day for the election," not "the last day for the election." I have tried my best but failed to find any federal law that allows early voting of any kind, thus overriding 2 U.S.C. 7.

Chiquita · 1 week ago

"Hawaiian Time" is a bad excuse. Some people just like to waste time and complain - put the blame on somebody else for the choices they made.

Sun_Duck · 1 week ago

They wait until the last minute to vote because they know the cameras are going to be there. Then the media exploits the situation to the point where voters in line is all that they talk about for hours leading up to the first print out.

Truthseeker · 1 week ago

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