In this presidential election year, Hawaii voters will also weigh in on key local races

In this presidential election year, Hawaii voters will also weigh in on key local races
(Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s going to be a busy election season ... as Hawaii also grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

On Oahu and the Big Island, voters will be choosing a new mayor and prosecuting attorney. The seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is up for grabs. And of course, this is a presidential election year.

This is also the first year Hawaii will be going to an all-mail election, forgoing the traditional neighborhood polling places.

If you need information on how to register or what you need to do once you get a ballot, click here.

But to get prepared for the primary and general, here’s what you need to know:

The primary election this year is on Aug. 8.

In nonpartisan races, like county mayors and council members, a candidate must get 50% of the vote plus one to win outright. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election.

In partisan races, the top vote-getters for each party proceed.

But since Hawaii is an overwhelmingly Democratic state, many of the races for the state Legislature are all but decided in the primary.

There’s a hot race for Honolulu’s mayor.

Political onlookers say it’s unlikely that any of the candidates for Honolulu mayor will get the 50% plus one majority to win outright in the primary election.

A Civil Beat-HNN poll showed no one had the majority of support among Oahu registered voters. That’s at least partly because it’s a crowded field.

Candidates have also struggled to bend voters’ ears amid the pandemic, which has meant they can’t hold gatherings, knock on doors or even wave signs.

The leading candidates for the seat are (in alphabetical order):

  • Honolulu businessman Keith Amemiya
  • Former HNN general manager Rick Blangiardi
  • Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa
  • Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann
  • City Councilwoman Kym Pine

Honolulu voters will also be choosing a new city prosecutor this year.

And on the Big Island, Mayor Harry Kim is running for re-election up against a number of challengers, including Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth.

Congressional seats are also on the ballot.

State Sen. Kai Kahele has emerged as the front-runner in the bid for U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s seat. During her run for the White House, she announced she wouldn’t seek re-election.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case, meanwhile, is running for re-election in the 1st Congressional District.

Hawaii could see higher voter turnout this year.

Lawmakers are hopeful the switch to mail-in voting and a busy election will lead to higher voter turnout this year. Hawaii has long had the lowest turnout in the nation.

Presidential election years often lead to higher turnout in the islands, and there’s also more energy among voters to make sure their voices are heard.

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