HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - About 4,500 people lined up at two Voter Service Centers on Oahu on Election Day.
That turnout triggered huge lines and hours-long delays. And it was thousands more than officials had expected.
Elections officials say the service centers were never meant to accommodate many in-person voters during an election that was chiefly conducted by mail. But they acknowledged that there were things that could have been to prevent long lines.
“The Voter Service Center is really an adjunct process and is meant to service those special cases. Address updates, Election Day registration, perhaps accessible voting machines,” Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi said.
“I think we need to do additional work and communicating to the public that this is a vote by mail jurisdiction."
Takahashi added that while the high number of in-person voters was unexpected, but there will be open discussions in the future about adding more service centers. He said he is pleased with record-breaking turn-out with mail-in voting.
According to Takahashi, about 50 voting machines were available to in-person voters on Election Day.
Common Cause Hawaii, a non-profit organization supporting democracy and other processes such as voting, said they warned election officials that eight Voter Service Centers throughout the state would not be enough on Election Day.
“We saw this coming,” said Sandy Ma, the executive director of Common Cause Hawaii.
“We nearly filed a lawsuit in August over the vote by mail process and needing more voter service centers. We support vote-by-mail. We alerted the state in the counties about the long lines forming. But our warnings were not headed. And it’s unfortunate.”
Ma said Common Cause volunteers also reported hour-plus waits at centers on Maui and the Big Island.
Chris Lee, who was elected to the state Senate on Tuesday, co-wrote the vote-by-mail legislation.
He’s happy with mail-in results and voter turnout, but said there needs to be enough voting spaces available and hopes for more in the future. He said while the law-makers laid out a plan, it was up to individual counties to determine how many service centers were available.
“I think the biggest thing yesterday was that there were obviously a lot of last minute voters who waited till the very last day, sometimes the very last hour, of the very last day to vote," Lee said.
“I think going forward in future elections, it needs to be made sure there’s better ability to predict these things, and have enough voting spaces available to make sure that people can get their vote processed on a timely basis.”