HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More people have already registered to vote for the August 9 primary than for the last primary two years ago, elections officials said Tuesday, nine days before the voter registration deadline.
In the 2012, 687,500 people registered to vote statewide. This year, that number is up by nearly one percent to 692,557 as of June 30 with nine days left to sign up to vote.
"That's just a part of the normal up and down, so to speak, of the voter rolls. Probably par for the course, I think," said Glen Takahashi, the city elections administrator.
Elections officials said they can't predict if increased registration means there will be higher turnout this year, since many people who register don't bother to vote.
City elections workers are preparing nearly 100,000 mail-in absentee ballots to be sent out to voters July 18.
They have a new $300,000 scanning and sorting machine to help process mail-in ballots that are increasing by about 15 percent each election year.
Using a camera to capture voters' signatures for verification, the new machine can process 20,000 mail-in ballots an hour, a task that used to take 12 election staffers two days to complete.
"We would certainly save on some labor costs, some time and again, it's about doing things efficiently with the right equipment," Takahashi said.
The City Clerk's office will send absentee ballot registration forms to the 4,800 people, mostly Windward residents, who voted at the early walk-in voting site at Pali Golf Course in 2012.
Windward City Council member Ikaika Anderson had asked the clerk's office to reconsider its plans to close the site this year and they reached a compromise to target the voters who voted there two years ago with absentee ballots.
"Hopefully, that will kind of blunt the edge of the reduction of services. It's not something we take lightly. But I thought that was a good compromise," Takahashi said.
To save money, the city is closing that site for the primary but Windward politicians hope to find an early voting site to open for the general election in November.
State Rep. Chris Lee (D – Kailua, Lanikai) said, "We've talked with the folks at Windward Community College and other places to find out if there's space available and it sounds like there's potential there to be able to host something to be able to keep costs low but still make sure there's access so folks can vote."
State Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R – Kailua, Kaneohe Bay Drive) said, "The reduction in services on the Windward side just isn't acceptable and we're working together to remedy that."
Meanwhile, state elections officials are still looking for 900 people to staff polling places statewide for the Aug. 9 primary.
While the state forecasts the need for 3,150 poll workers, as of Tuesday, it had signed up 2,250. That's about 900 people or 29 percent short.
The state's Chief Election Officer Scott Nago said it's been easier to recruit election workers from smaller, close-knit communities.
"The Honolulu area is more of a commuter or transient population. So there's not a sense of community there. We find it a lot easier to recruit on the neighbor islands or rural areas," Nago said.
Nago said the state has recruited a few more people to work at the polls so far this year, compared to at this time before the last primary election two years ago.
Precinct workers are paid $85 for a 12- or 13-hour day and they must attend a one-hour training session.
July 10 is the primary voter registration deadline and the state is setting up wiki-wiki drive thru drop off service to receive voter registration documents July 9 and 10 in front of the State Capitol by the Father Damien statue.
"It's just about accessibility, making the system more accessible and open so that more people can take advantage of the services," Nago said.
Takahashi said people need to remember to notify their county clerk's office or re-register to vote if they've moved since the 2012 election.
"You might be listed in the poll books at your old polling place when you should be actually in your new polling place," Takahashi said. "It's a lot easier if the addresses are kept current with us and we get you to the right place the first time."
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