HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Hawaii's primary election just eight days away and half of primary voters expected to vote early, elections officials are warning people not to make mistakes that could invalidate their votes.
Early voting is continuing to increase this year, with 115,770 Oahu residents requesting ballots by mail so far, 13 percent more than did so before the 2012 primary.
Trays of hundreds of mail-in ballots are arriving each day at the Honolulu City Clerk's election division.
Elections officials find dozens of mail-in ballots each day whose affirmation signatures on the outside don't initially match voter registration documents.
"We authenticate the signature against another record that we have, say a voter registration form, and the signatures have to match before we deem the ballot countable," said Glen Takahashi, Honolulu's city elections administrator.
The authentication process is in place to guard against voter fraud, a felony punishable with prison time.
"There's a lot of checks to make sure the voter voting that absentee ballot is that voter," said state Chief Election Officer Scott Nago.
Elections officials find voter mistakes that could invalidate votes. For instance, they receive hundreds of mail-in ballots with the voter's signature missing from the back of the envelope.
"A lot of times they forget and so we give them a second chance and a lot of voters appreciate that because otherwise, their ballot wouldn't be countable," Takahashi said.
They return the envelopes unopened to voters so they can sign them and return them.
But they encounter other mail-in ballot mishaps.
"Another common type of mistake is a husband might sign a wife's envelope or vice versa and we're able to catch some of those things as well through the signature verification process," Takahashi said.
This year, Honolulu election officials have a new scanning and sorting machine that for the first time in Hawaii electronically catalogs each mail-in ballot, making it much easier and faster to locate an individual ballot if there's a question or a problem with it.
Takahashi said if voters applied for a mail-in early ballot but have not received one, they should immediately call their county clerk. Since the election is not until Saturday, Aug. 9, there is still time to send a replacement ballot to them, Takahashi said.
Early walk-in and mail-in voting before primary elections has steadily increased statewide in recent years, going from 37 percent in 2006 to 39 percent in 2008 and jumping to 44 percent in 2010 and going up further to 49 percent before the last primary in 2012.