There was a rush to vote late Tuesday at Honolulu Hale as people who preferred to vote in person arrived by car and on foot to cast their ballots.

A long line of automobiles snarled in rush-hour traffic made their way slowly to the side of the government building, with a train of cars snaking around South Beretania Street and Punchbowl Street. Cars coming from that direction had to make a difficult left turn into the driveway of Honolulu Hale, across oncoming traffic, to place their ballots in the box at the front entrance.

Those caught in traffic who couldn’t make it to the front of the line in time when the polling place closed at 7 p.m. encountered an orange traffic cone blocking the entrance and were waved away by a police officer who told them they had gotten there too late.

Voters line up for midterm 2022 elections at Honolulu Hale.
Voters lined up for midterm 2022 elections at Honolulu Hale on Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Waving their ballot envelopes, several begged to be allowed admission but were turned away. One woman’s car was briefly caught on the wrong side of the road as she tried unsuccessfully to enter the driveway.

Once at Honolulu Hale, voters had a choice of dropping off their mail ballots in a ballot box at the front of the building or waiting in a long line on foot to go inside and vote in the traditional way.

This is the second election cycle since Hawaii shifted to mail-in balloting in 2020. While many are delighted with the change and consider it more convenient, it was obvious on election night that many voters, including many Republicans but also some Democrats, remain confused or angry about the change in procedures.

C. J. Hall-Dumale of Honolulu was feeling disgusted by the process as she left Honolulu Hale Tuesday afternoon after casting her ballot. Her only other option was the other polling station at Kapolei.

“They need more polling places,” she said. “We like voting in person. It’s ridiculous that there are only two polling places for the whole island.”

She said she believes election officials are pushing her toward using a drop box rather than in-person voting, which she does not think is fair.

“With so many discussions on the integrity of elections, I prefer to vote in person,” she said.

Jason Brewster, an Uber driver who lives in Makiki, was another frustrated voter.

“The lines are pretty long,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that they have only one location in town for people to vote. It’s absurd, to be frank. It’s very inconvenient. There’s no parking downtown. It’s to deter people from coming out and pursuing their constitutional right to vote.”

He dislikes mail-in voting.

“I’m old school,” he said. “I think you should come out in person, and that it’s a community thing.”

An elections worker collects ballots from the drop box at Honolulu Hale on Tuesday night. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

Pauline O’Donnell, who lives on the windward side of the island, said she doesn’t like the way Hawaii is conducting its elections now.

“It would be nicer if they did it the way they used to, at schools,” she said. “We had to come down from Kaneohe.”

She said she and her husband intend to continue voting in person.

“We’ve never done mail-in, ever,” she said.

Matthew Uyezu, 18, who lives in Kaneohe, set out for Kaneohe District Park, which he knew as the normal polling place for his neighborhood but was surprised to find nobody there. He called the elections office and was told he had two choices for in-person voting — Honolulu Hale or Kapolei.

What he thought would be a quick trip instead turned into a two-hour ordeal because he found it hard to find parking once he got there.

He wondered why there was no voting place more convenient to his home.

“The only issue I have is the lack of voting centers on the other side of the island,” he said.

Mariah Yoder, 30, was so enthusiastic about voting that she went to Honolulu Hale twice Tuesday, once alone and again later with her mother after she got off work. She waited outside the building, holding one infant in her arms and pushing a toddler in a stroller, while her mother went inside to cast her vote.

She said having children made her pay more attention to politics because she is thinking of their future.

She voted herself at about 7 a.m. because she is an Uber driver and had been working since 4 a.m. so she swung over to Honolulu Hale to get her vote in early. The lines were short at that time, she said. Then she made the same trek over from Makiki with her mother at sunset as well.

“Our democracy is a special thing,” she said. “We are so lucky to have it.”

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