Worker shortage, costs among barriers to adding more Election Day polling places

Being a mail-in state means there are no more traditional polling places for in-person voting.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 5:42 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 7:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii implemented an all mail-in ballot system three years ago, but thousands of people still chose to vote in person on Election Day.

And some voiced frustration with long lines at the few places that were open, especially on Maui, where the last vote was cast an hour after polls closed.

Being a mail-in state means there are no more traditional polling places for in-person voting.

Election Day voters encounter hours-long waits to cast ballots

Voter service centers are set up for people with ballot issues and special needs. So when a flood of voters show up at the same time, it costs taxpayer money and delays results.

Voter service centers opened on Oct. 25 but still more than 7,000 people waited until Tuesday to vote.

After issues during the August primary, Maui election officials said they added security and five workers, expecting another last minute rush.

But many voters want more to be done.

“Having another polling place, at least one other polling place, if not multiple. Having just more prepared staff,” said Waihee resident Mikiala Puaa-Freitas.

Each county clerk decides the number of voter service centers with guidance from elected officials.

“We thought this was enough, not realizing that the number would increase,” said Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee. Turnout for the primary was about 35%. But during the general election, the number shot up to 50%.

“We didn’t expect that many people at one time. If they spread it out a little bit, then it’s doable,” Lee said.

Part of the backlog, she said, was due to people who received mail-in ballots but wanted to vote in person instead.

“When you do that, that’s involves quite a bit of paperwork,” she said.

“Because we have to take your ballot that you received in the mail, we have to take it to you and issue you a new one. And we have to check for identification and accuracy, addresses and all that takes a lot of time.”

Time that requires more money and staff. Lee says workers are burnt out and hiring is a challenge.

“To find even more workers for a second voter center is, is rather questionable, but certainly something that we would consider looking at,” Lee said.

Lee says the council will reevaluate the process and push for more aggressive voter education.

“It takes a toll on everyone. And if people could understand that, you know, the last minute voting is usually for was really meant for if you have a an issue where you can’t vote earlier. But if you can we really appreciate it,” Lee said.

A temporary voter service center was set up in Hana but was not open on Election Day.

Adding more pop-ups could help with the last minute crunch.