After nearly a decade of advocating for vote-by-mail, the Hawaii State Legislature, in 2019, passed HB 1248, which was signed into law by Governor David Ige as Act 136, Session Laws of Hawaii 2019, converting Hawaii elections to a statewide vote-by-mail system beginning with the primary 2020 election.
What is Voting by Mail?
Ballots will be mailed and received by all registered voters 18 days before the election day. The voter marks the ballot, puts it first into a secrecy envelope and then places the secrecy envelope and its contents in a separate mailing envelope. The voter signs an affidavit on the exterior of the mailing envelope and returns the package via mail. Postage costs are prepaid. Ballots must be received by 7:00 pm on Election Day. Once returned by the voter, voting officials will scan the unopened exterior returned ballot to verify signatures and then open the envelope. The enclosed ballots are tabulated by computer, but a verifiable paper trail is maintained for all ballots. Replacement ballots for lost or damaged ballots are available from the county clerks, who cancel the original ballot before issuing a replacement.
In addition to establishing a statewide vote-by-mail system starting with the 2020 primary election, HB 1248 will establish a limited number of voter service centers that will remain open from the tenth business day preceding an election through the day of the election to receive personal delivery of mail-in ballots, offer same day registration and voting, and provide other election services.
Why Voting by Mail?
Hawaii voters want the convenience of voting by mail. Voters can avoid long lines and take their time when casting their ballots, rather than being pressured and rushed in a cramped booth on Election Day. In recent years, voters have increasingly opted to vote by mail instead of voting in person at walk-in polling places. During the 2016 general election, 53.6% of Hawaii voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day.
The State will save money. The Hawaii State Office of Elections estimates approximately $750 thousand would be saved in each election cycle by converting to Voting by Mail.
Common Cause Hawaii believes that democracy works better when more people participate, and we must look for ways to reduce barriers to voting. As such Common Cause has a long history of advocating for reforms to increase voter turnout and increase access to the polls. From leading the movement in support of the 16th amendment giving 18-year-olds the right to vote, to most recently securing the passage of online voter registration and same day voter registration in Hawaii; we continue to fight to ensure that voters are able to make their voices heard on Election Day. Vote by Mail is a step in the right direction to accomplishing this reform.