The Votes Are in
As Hawai‘i braces for its inaugural vote-by-mail election, chief election officer Scott Nago drops by to explain the new protocol in making one’s voice heard.
Voting is expected to be both safe and easy for residents as they prepare for this year’s primary (Aug. 8) and general (Nov. 3) elections.
With traditional polling sites no longer a part of the landscape (the 2019 state Legislature passed a bill implementing a vote-by-mail procedure), registered voters may simply cast their ballots from the friendly confines of their homes without the fear of waiting in long lines and coming into contact with the coronavirus.
Two years ago, only two out of five people in Hawai‘i voted at each polling place. Thus, streamlining the process while encouraging more voters to participate in their constitutional duty became the aim of state officials.
“In the early 2000s and late 1990s, more people went to polling places,” explains chief election officer Scott Nago. “But, since 2014, more people have voted absentee or early walk-in.”
Those who registered to vote by the July 9 primary deadline should be receiving ballot packets in the mail around July 21, and must send in their ballots by Aug. 8.
“We recommend if you’re going to mail it, mail it at least five days prior,” Nago says.
Voters can also drop off their ballots at designated places of deposit (see “Places of Deposit” on page 23).
If ballots are accidentally destroyed or damaged, or if help is needed with same-day voter registration, residents may contact voter service centers at Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale (see “Voter Service Centers” on page 23).
“We prefer they mail it in, though,” says Nago.
Whether putting it in the mail or placing it in a deposit box, all return envelopes must be signed to validate the signature from one’s voter registration card.
Because Hawai‘i has a single-party primary, voters need to choose one political party and only vote for candidates in that political party.
“We call it political preference,” explains Nago, who has been with the elections office since he finished college in the late ’90s.
In his position, he and his office are responsible for state and federal elections, and work with the counties to get the job done.
“There’s a divide between the state and county,” he says, noting the little-known fact about the Hawai‘i election process.
The state is responsible for counting ballots and voter education, while counties are responsible for voter registration, mailing and receiving of ballots, as well as voter service centers and places of deposit.
“We definitely work together,” he adds.
After the primary, the process starts all over again for the general election. Once Nov. 3 comes and goes, that will mark the end of a milestone year for Nago and the state Office of Elections.
“There’s no better feeling than the day after the general election,” Nago adds. “It’s like a feeling of accomplishment.”
Nago and his fellow state and county officials are looking forward to a successful election, and encourage everyone to cast their vote. “Voting is important,” adds Nago. “A lot of people before us worked to get us that right to vote. It’s not something we should take lightly or for granted.”
Voter Service Centers
Need help with your ballot or same-day voter registration? Head to one of O‘ahu’s voter service centers at Honolulu Hale or Kapolei Hale, which will be open 10 business days prior to each election.
July 27-Aug. 7 (Mondays-Saturdays) 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Aug. 8 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Oct. 20-Nov. 2 (Mondays-Saturdays) 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Nov. 3 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Visit elections.hawaii.gov to learn more.
Places of Deposit
The state Office of Elections has set up places of deposit for voters to drop off their completed ballot packet. Honolulu County parks serving as places of deposit are open daily (park hours) from July 21 to 7 p.m. Aug. 8 for the primary election. General election hours at county parks run from Oct. 16 to 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
Hawai‘i Kai Park and Ride
240 Keāhole St.
Kāne‘ohe District Park
45-660 Kea‘ahala Road
Kahuku District Park
56-170 Pualalea St.
Mililani Park and Ride
95-1101 Ukuwai St.
Neal S. Blaisdell Park
98-319 Kamehameha Hwy.
Wai‘anae District Park
85-601 Farrington Hwy.
In addition, Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale also serve as places of deposit. For the primary election, they’re open 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays July 22-Aug. 7, as well as 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 8. For the general election, they’re open 7:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays Oct. 16-Nov. 2, as well as 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 3.
For more information, visit elections.hawaii.gov/voter-service-centers-and-places-of-deposit.