Hawai‘i’s First All-Vote-by-Mail Election Has Begun

What you need to do now and where to go to make sure your vote gets counted.
voting in hawaii
Photo: Katrina Valcourt


If you’ve voted in recent elections, you likely received one of more than 700,000 ballots sent in the mail. You may have even filled it out and dropped it in the mailbox.


If your answer is yes, congrats on being organized and getting it done! But maybe you’ve stacked that envelope in the pile of important mail you plan to handle real soon. Now’s the time to deal with it, look at the races, check news sites to find out more about any candidate and make your picks.


Here on O‘ahu, as of July 28, the Honolulu Elections division had received 88,003 ballots, including ones cast by 98 people who chose to vote in person at the two service centers.


Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi says more 525,000 voters are registered but that includes some who haven’t voted recently. In previous elections, closer to 200,000 people in Honolulu cast ballots. However, living in a pandemic has prompted a lot of talk about how to make things better in Hawai‘i and the world. State elections officials are also hoping that this first all-mail-in election will prompt more residents to vote. We hope so, too! So, to make this new process as easy as possible, we’ve got some tips and tricks for voting smoothly, late-breaking ways to still register for the Aug. 8 primary election, and what you need to know to go vote in person.


Tips and tricks for:

Filling out the ballot:

  • On the front of the ballot, voters must select one political party, then vote for candidates within that party. If you choose anyone outside of your party, those votes will not count.
  • Fill in the box completely, completely being the key word, with a black or blue pen. Do not use whiteout. (Seriously, it happens.)
  • If you threw away the ballot thinking it was yet another candidate mailer or you made a mistake, don’t worry, the county elections folks can get you a replacement ballot. The City and County of Honolulu’s Elections Division has an online link for O‘ahu voters who need replacement ballots, honolulu.gov/elections, or call (808) 768-3800 during office hours.
  • Remember to vote both sides of the ballot. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and county contests are on the back of the ballot. On O‘ahu, that’s where you’ll vote for mayor, prosecuting attorney and City Council seats.
  • Once you’ve made your selections, put the completed ballot in the yellow secrecy sleeve, put that in the return envelope, then sign the envelope and decide how you’ll turn it in.


Turning in your ballot. You can: (More choices!)

  • Drop the envelope in the mail for pickup without any postage.
  • Drop the envelope in one of eight specially marked yellow collection boxes located at: Hawai‘i Kai Park and Ride; Honolulu Hale; Kāne‘ohe District Park; Kahuku District Park; Kapolei Hale; Mililani Park and Ride; Neal S. Blaisdell Park; and Wai‘anae District Park on O‘ahu.
  • Go to a voting service center, which is the closest to a traditional polling place. On O‘ahu, there are two: Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale. Both are open Mondays to Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on primary day, Aug. 8, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The advantage is if you make a mistake, the machine will kick the ballot out so you can find out what’s wrong and fix it so your vote gets counted. The disadvantage is you’ll still need to wear a mask, mind social distancing and don’t know how many people will show up. Bring a photo ID. Takahashi urges anyone who chooses in-person voting to go early. “With the ongoing pandemic, we want to avoid creating last-minute crowds increasing the stakes for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus,” he says.
  • You can also register to vote at the service centers.


What else you need to know:

  • The ballots must be RECEIVED by 7 p.m. on election day, NOT postmarked. So, officials recommend mailing by no later than Saturday, Aug. 1 or choosing a drop-off option.
  • Want to make sure your ballot was received? Go to elections.hawaii.gov and click ballot status.
  • Results will come quickly. Beginning July 29, state elections officials will begin processing ballots received but won’t tabulate any results until after the polls close at 7 p.m. Aug. 8. While some other states that switched to mail-in ballots wait to announce results until days after the election, Hawai‘i state elections officials plan to announce the counts that night, first around 7 p.m., then a second round around 10 p.m. with the final unofficial results expected the next day. After rounds of checks and balances, the final verified result are released a few days later. We’ll have the latest numbers on our Twitter feed, @honolulumag.


Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman