Many mailed ballots in Hawaii’s primary elections weren’t counted due to missed deadline

Many mailed ballots in Hawaii’s primary elections weren’t counted due to missed deadline
Many mailed ballots in Hawaii’s primary elections weren’t counted due to missed deadline

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More than 3,000 Hawaiian voters suffered a pitfall – voting too late – in this year’s primary election.

County election officials report that 3,125 mail-in ballots in the August 13 contest did not count because they were not received in time.

Some voters in Hawaii might still get used to the state’s 2-year-old voting system designed to have the vast majority of votes cast by mail as a convenient way to increase voter turnout. government officials. But to a large extent this year, voters had to assess for themselves how long they had to return ballots.

The state office of elections, the U.S. Postal Service, and two of the four county election offices refrained from promoting public advice about when voters were likely to mail their ballots in order for ballots to vote are received in time by county election officials.

That deadline for receipt, a state law, is 7 p.m. on the last day of voting. Voters received the ballots about 18 days before the primary election.

In Oahu, 2,201 votes were not counted because mail-in ballots arrived late. That was a 59% increase from 1,385 late ballots in the 2020 primary election, which marked the first time the state had conducted primarily mail-in voting under a 2019 decision by the state legislature. ‘State.

Retired University of Hawaii political science professor Neal Milner said it would help if election officials were more proactive in helping voters meet the mail-in deadline. But he also noted that voters are responsible and that the number of late ballots represented just under 1% of the 340,159 votes counted. “I don’t see that as a huge problem,” he said.

Voters who can flirt with a close call meeting the deadline have alternatives. One is to drop sealed ballots into one of dozens or more drop boxes in each county. The other alternative is to vote in person before or on the last day of voting.

Also available this year is a free statewide service called BallotTrax, which notifies voters when their ballot has been received.

BallotTrax users who do not receive confirmation of receipt can call for more information and vote in person if their ballot appears to be late. The last of two ballots received from the same voter in such a case would not count.

Duke Gonzales, a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service in Honolulu, said the agency will provide timing guidelines for mail-in ballot delivery to county election officials as proprietary customer information, but not to the general public. His advice to voters: “Don’t wait until the last minute.”

It typically takes two to three days to deliver a letter mailed between two people in the state, but Gonzales said the USPS doesn’t want that general metric applied to ballots.

The STATE Elections Office, where voter education is part of its mission, released a printed guide to the 2020 general election that included this advice: “Send in your signed ballot no later than October 27 for you ensure it is received before the close of voting at 7:00 pm on election day (November 3). This year, the agency only offers this help on its website regarding when to mail ballots: “Be aware of USPS delivery times to ensure it is received on time. .”

Nedielyn Bueno, spokesperson for the agency, said earlier public recommendations with specific dates for mail time stamping in some cases have proven less helpful because delivery logistics can be fluid. For example, she said the USPS increased its registered mail schedule between the primary and general elections two years ago. As a general rule, Bueno said voters should mail in their ballots at least five days before Election Day.

In Oahu, the Honolulu City Clerk’s Office Electoral Division this year avoided giving voters guidance on when they should return ballots. “Our recommendation is to return your ballots early,” spokeswoman Doris Lam said.

Hawaii County has encouraged quick action from voters on the Big Island by including a hot pink slip in each ballot stating that the USPS recommends mailing ballots by August 9, which is four weekdays. before the primary elections. County election officials also promoted these tips in radio and television ads.

“We’re making very active efforts to keep this (late ballot) count low,” Hawaii County Clerk Jon Henricks said. Hawaii County reported 211 late ballots and didn’t have a number comparable to the 2020 primary election. “We’d like to see that number come down,” Henricks said. “Even if it’s just one voter, it’s disappointing.”

For the November 8 general election in Hawaii, Hawaii County recommends returning ballots by November 3.

All voters in Hawaii are expected to begin receiving mail-in ballots for the general election on or around October 21.

On Kauai, 175 ballots were received late in the mail. Lyndon Yoshioka, the county’s election administrator, said no advice was given on when voters should return ballots by mail, but he generally said: “A week is your best bet. .”

Yoshioka also said the USPS adjusted its usual delivery practice just before the primary election by manually diverting ballot envelopes so they stay in Kauai instead of being sent to Honolulu with all regular mail for sorting. and delivery.

MAUI COUNTY Clerk Kathy Kaohu said a similar adjustment was made by the USPS on Lanai and Molokai for this year’s primary election, which helped deliver more ballots ahead of the date. limit.

Another adjustment made on Election Day in Maui County, by special request, was a late collection of post office box mail by the USPS so that more ballots could be received by the county before the deadline for 7 p.m., Kaohu said.

Regarding publicity about when voters should mail ballots, Kaohu said there were fewer this year than in 2020 for Maui County. County councils are a week away, and Kaohu said the county has been promoting it primarily in some community and alternative media for this year’s primary election.

There were 538 ballots received late in Maui County.

Kaohu said voters should vote early, and if they don’t, they should have an alternative plan that includes the ability to drop ballots at county ballot boxes by 7 p.m. on Election Day. “That’s the only guarantee,” she says.

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. mailed ballots Hawaiis primary elections werent counted due missed deadline

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