Elections officials hope switch to all mail-in election boosts turnout

State has already received 230,000+ ballots ahead of 2020 primary election

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Time is running out for voters to cast their ballots in Hawaii’s first all mail-in primary election.

Hawaii’s Office of Elections sent out about 700,000 ballots to voters statewide last month.

So far, they’ve gotten roughly 230,000 ballots back.

With Hawaii’s switch to mail-in voting, officials are hoping to boost the state’s traditionally low turnout.

"We've been pleasantly surprised. We've had a lot of ballots come in," said Honolulu elections administrator Rex Quidilla. "With a few more days to go, we're kind of hoping that maybe we'll have a nice, positive turnout for the primary election."

County personnel verify signatures on the returned ballots before sending the valid ones to the state for tabulation.

This year, ballots are being counted at the Hawaii Convention Center instead of the State Capitol due to the need for physical distancing.

“Because we’re now a vote by mail state, we can actually start 10 days prior to the election, whereas before we had to do everything on election day,” said Chief Election Officer Scott Nago.

Quidilla said so far about 1,000 ballots have signatures that do not match the ones on file in voter registration records. Voters are notified about the problem.

Under a new law, they have up to 5 business days after the election to correct it to have their ballot counted. In extremely tight races, it could take about a week to get a final count.

"We want to make sure that every piece is valid, that every vote counts," Quidilla said.

People can also vote electronically at a designated service center or place their completed ballot in a drop box until Aug. 8 at 7 p.m., which is the deadline for ballots to be received.

"We haven't seen the traffic at our voter service centers that would cause an issue, but it's definitely going to be a challenge if a lot of people come in the last few days, but we'll manage," Quidilla said.

If you want to make sure your ballot was received, click here.

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