Record number of Hawaii votes cast in one of the most anticipated elections in decades

Updated: Nov. 3, 2020 at 4:23 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii has seen record number of voters this election, primarily conducted by mail, and officials are urging those who haven’t cast a ballot to do so soon.

State elections officials said 513,000 Hawaii voters had submitted a ballot as of Monday afternoon. That translates to roughly a 61% turnout. On Oahu, 354,000 voters turned in a ballot, a 64% turnout.

The vast majority of those were vote-by-mail.

But thousands of voters have opted to vote in person. At Honolulu Hale ― one of two Voter Service Centers on the island ― dozens lined up Monday to cast a ballot.

Poll workers said the turnout was steady and they expect longer lines Tuesday. “If you have waited this long be prepared for a little bit of a wait,” said Honolulu City Clerk Glenn Takahashi.

Poll close at 7 p.m. Tuesday and anyone in line at a Voter Service Center can still cast a ballot in person or by putting it into an official ballot drop box. Same-day registration is also offered at the centers.

For Hawaii voters, the move to a primarily vote-by-mail system isn’t the only change this year.

[Read more: Last-minute voters urged to submit ballots as Election Day nears]

Most agree there’s much more tension in the air compared to other presidential elections.

And unlike previous years, when the presidential race could be called by news organizations while Hawaii voters were still at the polls, it could take days before a winner is announced.

“There’s an anticipation for the outcome for sure,” Waikiki resident Rick Naylor.

[Looking for a Voter Service Center or official drop box? Click here.]

The number of Hawaii voters who have already cast their ballots eclipses the previous record ― seen when Hawaii’s own Barack Obama ran for president in 2008.

Resident Misty Obeso says she plans to be in front of the television Tuesday, watching the returns.

“Previous elections it was just like, 'OK, whoever you want to vote for get it done and over with and move on in our lives,” said Obeso.

“This time people are physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically getting involved.”

Businesses in cities from New York to Los Angeles spent the day boarding up their windows in anticipation of political unrest. In Oregon, the governor said the National Guard on standby.

“I think it’s going to be very chaotic," said Oahu resident Rebecca Puglia. “And, you know, I would be concerned."

The situation in several US cities stands in contrast to what’s expected in Hawaii.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he spoke with Honolulu police on Monday morning and “they’ve seen no evidence of civil unrest."

Residents weren’t surprised by that.

“Here in Hawaii there’s still a lot of respect,” said Obeso.

Puglia added, “I think I know the outcome. So I have a peace about it. And if that’s not the outcome I’ll just get up and go on my merry way the next day.”

In addition to the race for the White House, there are also some important local races on the ballot this year. On Oahu, voters are selecting a new mayor and city prosecutor. There’s also a race for the new mayor of Hawaii County. And there are several hot state legislative and City Council races.

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