HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are less than two weeks to go until the general election, and Hawaii voters are either turning in their ballots or preparing to do so.
For those who are still undecided ― about which candidates to support or which charter amendments to vote on ― Hawaii News Now Sunrise is here to help.
On Thursday morning, HNN’s election special took voters through the key issues and hot races on the ballot and discussed what’s at stake in the election with a panel of experts, including:
- Chad Blair, the political editor at Honolulu Civil Beat.
- Colin Moore, a Hawaii News Now political analyst and the director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
- Daryl Huff, the managing editor at Hawaii News Now.
- Ngoc Phan, an assistant professor at Hawaii Pacific University.
Here’s a closer look at Campaign 2020.
The 2020 primary in August was the first election since the state transitioned to an all mail-in voting system. The decision to do so was made in 2019, well before the coronavirus pandemic, and had an immediate impact on voter turnout.
“We had such a successful turnout during the primary that a lot of people, including me, think we’re going to repeat this,” said Colin Moore, of the state’s new mail-in ballot system. “I do want to say that this is a very secure way to cast your ballot. I know there’s been folks who question that, but the Office of Elections has lots of safety measures in place.”
Since most of the ballots are mailed in ahead of time, experts say there probably won’t be hours worth of suspense while votes are counted on election night.
“Really, the results of the election in absolute terms, the last ballot cast, will probably be a couple of days afterwards.,” says Daryl Huff, the managing editor at Hawaii News Now. “But the results, like, who’s winning? That will be apparent at 7:15 or 7:20 at night.”
“One of the interesting things about this race is not only can everyone vote, everyone can vote for every race. You don’t have to live on Hawaii Island to cast a vote for that trustee,” says Colin Moore. “Really it’s up to the individual voter, but many, many voters in past elections have chosen not to vote for the OHA race."
Perhaps the most high-profile of the council races is the one for District 9, where local comedian Augie T. is taking on long-time lawmaker Will Espero.
There are four amendments on the ballot for Oahu voters, including one on term limits for the Honolulu prosecutor, and a whopping 16 amendments on the ballot for voters on Hawaii Island.
“A lot of these are just housekeeping,” said Civil Beat political editor Chad Blair. “Trying to clean up the language that is in our government charter.”
As far as local races go, it doesn’t get any bigger than Keith Amemiya versus Rick Blangiardi. But there are a lot of things at stake, including the future of the Honolulu rail project.
“We have about 1.3 million people on the island as a whole, but Honolulu, the city, is nearly one million people (alone),” says Ngoc Phan, an associate professor at HPU.
“When you think about how we spend our money, you really need to think carefully about who you want governing and how we spend our money.”
Mitch Roth, the Hawaii County prosecutor, takes on community activist Ikaika Marzo, who became a household name during the Kilauea eruption of 2018.
In many ways, our experts say, Megan Kau is running a traditional law-and-order campaign against a judge with lots of name recognition in Steve Alm.
“Voters have a really distinct choice," said Colin Moore. "Voters see Megan Kau as the more conservative candidate, but in a more liberal state like Hawaii, the edge would probably have to go to Steve Alm.”
With 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, political experts expect the race for the presidency to come down to a very few select states — in either the Sun Belt or the Rust Belt.
“One way to think about this is where the candidates are spending the money,” says Colin Moore. “Two states come to mind: Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. These are states that President Trump won (in 2016) with a lot of white voters without college degrees that tend to be his base. These are the state’s trump probably needs to win to win the general election.”
For more on the 2020 general election, including information about casting your ballot, head to the Campaign 2020 section of our website.