Clock is ticking for Honolulu's absentee voters

Sarah Foronda
Sarah Foronda
Glen Takahashi
Glen Takahashi

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Time is of the essence for absentee voters on Oahu.

"It's hard to get to the polls and wait in line. It just seems so much easier to just send it in," says absentee voter Sarah Foronda. She sent her ballot in a few days ago.

The last of the mail-in ballots for Oahu voters went out on Monday. Honolulu City Elections Administrator Glen Takahashi says, "We put about 9,600 packets in the mail to, kind of, finish off the primary election request."

The last of the ballots should have reached mailboxes by now. Since July, the clerk's office says it's received a huge number of absentee voter application requests. Once the office received a request, a ballot packet would then be sent to each applicant who was registered to vote.

"Normally, we would mail out about 70 thousand or so packets in the primary election. This year, we've had about 87 thousand requests, so we've far exceeded the usual workload, " says Takahashi.

While the mail-in process is convenient for voters, many say it also makes financial sense for the city because of furloughs, cutbacks, and a reduced number of polling places on Oahu.

As each blue-enveloped ballot arrives at the clerk's office, it's accounted for and authenticated - electronically and with eyeballs. During the interview, Takahashi referenced an employee who was handling the ballots. "So, what she's doing here is, basically, scanning the barcode that we print on the envelope and in doing so, we're recording all of these returned ballots as 'voted'."

Employees also look for missing signatures. If the ballots aren't signed, they get sent back to the voter, but the majority are good to go. "Once it's all returned," Takahashi says, "we put them in these locked cages and store it until election day when we transfer custody to the state of Hawaii for counting."

All absentee ballots must be received by the city clerk's office by six o'clock Saturday evening to be counted. If you haven't requested an absentee ballot for Saturday's election, officials say it's too late to do so. Some Hawaii News Now viewers say they did request mail-in ballots weeks ago but never received one. The city clerk's office says it fulfilled all the application requests for registered voters.

If you don't think your absentee ballot will make it in by the deadline, early voting walk-in sites at Honolulu City Hall, Kapolei Hale, and Windward mall will be open until 4:00 pm Thursday. You can also drop your ballot off at Honolulu Hale on Friday from 7:45 in the morning until 4:30 pm.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.