When you vote for the next U.S. president or Honolulu’s next mayor, you probably won’t do it in a polling booth.

Gov. David Ige signed into law Tuesday afternoon bills establishing an all-mail voting system starting with the 2020 elections along others mandating automatic recounts in close races. He also signed a bill that allows for ballots to be electronically transmitted for voters with special needs. Those bills were among 18 others Ige signed Tuesday covering homelessness, mental and physical health, kupuna care and traffic safety.

The state Office of Elections has already begun work on getting the all-mail voting system ready for the 2020 elections. Voters should be getting their ballots, along with prepaid return envelopes, about 18 days before each election.

Polling booths like this one at Kahaluu Elementary School on Oahu will soon be a thing of the past.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The law still allows voters to drop off their ballots in person at certain locations that will be determined by the counties as well as voter service centers where people can register to vote or cast ballots in person. The law, now Act 136, will do away with traditional polling places.

Act 135, previously Senate Bill 216, would mandate recounts in races where the difference between the top-two vote getters is 0.25% or 100 votes or less.

Voting reform was a top priority for the Legislature and propelled by two elections challenges last year. In one, Sen. Kurt Fevella was almost barred from being sworn in to his senate seat.

In the other, former city councilman Trevor Ozawa’s presumed victory last November was invalidated by the state Supreme Court. His challenger, Councilman Tommy Waters, defeated Ozawa in April by a margin of 1,000 votes.

This news can't wait.

Every day, journalists in nonprofit newsrooms like Civil Beat dig deeper into the raw news of the day to deliver in-depth and investigative reporting that engages communities, advances solutions, and demands accountability. This news can’t wait. So why would you?

Give today and NewsMatch will double the impact of your donation. We’ll even throw in a limited-edition Civil Beat t-shirt!

About the Author