HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 51% of registered voters cast a ballot in the state’s first mail-in primary election.
The last time Hawaii saw turnout that high was in 1996.
“Primaries normally have a relatively low turnout and we just blew the doors off, I mean this is incredible,” said political analyst Colin Moore.
Just 5,473 people cast their ballots in person at voter service centers and roughly 400,952 ballots were mailed in or dropped off ― with some rushing to meet last night’s deadline.
According to Chief Election Officer Scott Nago, ballots dropped off at designated bins on the final day nearly tripled. That caused a delay in some updated results being released Sunday.
“We didn’t get back till maybe 4:30 a.m. this morning,” said Nago. “That’s when we started the two-step envelopes process and separate them, burst them and then finally scan through the scanner.”
But we’ll have to wait about another week for the final results.
As of Friday, there were roughly 2,500 voters statewide who did not sign their ballot envelope or who had a signature that didn’t match the one on file.
Those voters will be notified by the county clerk’s office and have five business days after the election to correct the problem.
This could make a difference in extremely close races like the race to represent Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui. Just 91 votes separate incumbent Lynn DeCoite and Hawaiian rights activist Walter Ritte.
“You know from the primary with that slim margin, anything can happen, and whatever happens I’ll accept what happens and move forward from there,” said DeCoite.
“So I think it’s really important that whatever happens win or lose, we do it in a way that’s going to show Hawaiians that it’s okay to get involved in politics,” said Ritte.
The race between longtime lawmaker Scott Saiki and community advocate Kim Coco Iwamoto is also too close to call.
Another tight race is between incumbent Tom Brower and newcomer Adrian Tam.
Moore believes the convenience of mail-in voting combined with the COVID-19 crisis, people’s anger and fear along with staying at home contributed to the high voter turnout.
“Any way you look at this, this is terrific news for the health of our democracy,” said Moore.
The political analyst adds that other states usually see mail in voting go up by 3 to 4%. A high turnout is expected in November’s general election with the presidential race.