Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Did you throw away the orange Hawai‘i Votes by Mail postcard that the Office of Elections mailed out last month?
If you still have the postcard, keep it. You may want to refer to it as you vote by mail this year. If you’ve moved and/or did not receive a postcard, contact the Office of Elections at olvr.hawaii.gov or call 808-453-VOTE (8683) to register to vote or to check on your voter registration status.
If you threw it away, read on. We’ll tell you what you need to know.
First, the way Hawai‘i votes has changed. If you normally vote on Election Day at your neighborhood school/polling place, you won’t be able to do that anymore. Hawai‘i has switched to a vote by mail election system.
You have to vote by mail or go to an Election Service Center by 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8, Primary Election Day, in order for your vote to count. About half of us already vote absentee and know how to do it. But those used to voting on Election Day will have to learn the new system.
In April, you should be receiving a postcard that needs to be returned with your signature. Elections officials want an updated list of signatures to match against your signature on your mail-in ballot.
Here are other dates you should know.
• July 9: Voter registration deadline to receive your mail ballot packet for the Primary Election.
• July 21: Look for your Primary Election mail ballot packet to arrive.
• July 27: Voter Service Centers open through Election Day; mail your ballot back by Wednesday, Aug. 5, to make sure it is received by Election Day.
• Aug. 8: Primary Election Day. All ballots must be received by 7 p.m.
The following are dates for the General Election.
• Oct. 5: Voter registration deadline to receive your mail ballot packet for the General Election.
• Oct. 16: Look for your General Election mail ballot packet to arrive.
• Oct. 20: Voter Service Centers open through Election Day. Mail your ballot back by Friday, Oct. 30, to make sure it is received by Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day.
• Nov. 3: General Election Day. All ballots must be received by 7 p.m.
The state and counties haven’t identified where the Voter Service Centers will be located or the hours they will be open. That information is expected in May. It is also not clear how many Voter Service Centers will be open in each county. The law only requires one and gives the counties the option to open more, but the Legislature is considering bills (HB 2128 and SB 2137) to require more than one center per county.
If you prefer to actually cast a ballot, you can do so at a Voter Service Center. You’ll also be able to register to vote after the mail ballot deadline and you can drop off your completed mail ballot at the center instead of mailing it back.
Other states that have adopted mail ballot voting have seen an increase in voter participation. At AARP, we want to see more people voting. But we don’t want people who aren’t used to voting by mail to be disenfranchised.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience in telling stories online, in print and on television. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of roles before joining AARP in 2016.