More than 900 ballots won’t be counted this election because they were received after the deadline for ballots to be in the hands of officials on Election Day.
Ballots had to be returned to the county clerks by 7 p.m. Saturday, according to Hawaii’s voting law. That means ballots put in the mail last-minute or those postmarked but not received by 7 p.m. will not be counted toward the final primary results expected early next week.
The deadline provided an extra hour to turn in ballots than voters had in past elections when polls closed at 6 p.m.
Those 900 or so ballots make up just a fraction of 1% of the more than 700,000 ballots sent to voters mid-July.
Hawaii Elections Chief Scott Nago told reporters Saturday that state law binds the clerks’ hands when it comes to late ballots.
The state Office of Elections and county clerks asked voters to mail their ballots at least three to five days before Election Day. After that, they should have taken the ballots to one of 36 places of deposit around the state.
Clerks in Kauai County and the City and County of Honolulu reported 962 of those late ballots as of Thursday. There were no late ballots received in Hawaii County, according to elections division chief Pat Nakamoto.
The Maui County Clerk’s office did not respond to several inquiries requesting those numbers.
There were 24 late ballots received on Kauai and 958 on Oahu, including 38 ballots that people deposited at drop boxes after the deadline.
Those numbers could still grow as more late ballots arrive.
All late ballots are stored for about 22 months to comply with federal rules, according to Honolulu elections administrator Rex Quidilla.
Unlike ballots received on time, the clerk’s office will not put those ballots through the signature verification process used to count ballots that came in on time.
On Saturday, ballots cast in-person at a voter center were still taken after the deadline so long as the voter was in line by 7 p.m. That was the case with a handful of voters on Lanai and Molokai.
Officials are still waiting for the return of about 3,100 previously received ballots that were returned to voters because signature boxes were left blank or the signatures on return envelopes did not match those on file.
While county clerks received all those ballots before the deadline on Election Day, those ballots did not clear the signature verification process.
Voters have until 4:30 p.m. Friday to correct their ballots by re-signing them and can drop them off at county offices.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell