ADVISORY May 26: Voting in a Pandemic
- Sandy Ma (808) 275-6275 firstname.lastname@example.org
HONOLULU –Common Cause Hawaii is raising the alarm about elections officials scaling down Vote Service Centers from 250 to only eight and limiting Places of Deposit during this year’s primary and general election. This is the first time the state will be voting by mail without traditional polling locations.
Despite being in a pandemic, the State Office of Elections and the County Clerks Offices have decided that voters will only need eight Voter Service Centers throughout Hawaii, announced in a May 15, 2020 Proclamation. These Voter Service Centers allow the public to vote in-person, drop off their ballots, register to vote on the same day and more.
Moving entirely to vote-by-mail without providing ample vote service centers is a major endeavor. Voters need an opportunity to adjust to this change. Having only eight Voter Service Centers throughout Hawaii, which will only be open from 8am to 4:30pm from Monday to Saturday and then from 7am to 7pm on election days, will not be sufficient. Hawaii voters need more than eight Voter Service Centers statewide that will be open more convenient hours. This is especially true, as Hawaii will be voting in a pandemic, given that medical experts warn that there will be a second wave of COVID-19 during the fall and winter months during the 2020 primary and general presidential elections. State Office of Elections and the County Clerks Offices should not risk long lines at Voter Service Centers, which may endanger the public and elections staff.
As for the Places of Deposit, where voters can drop off their completed ballots, the State Office of Elections and the County Clerks Offices have decided that they are not all open 24 hours. Only a few on Maui island and Kauai are open 24 hours a day, 5 days prior to elections to allow people to deposit their ballots in person.
Finally, all eight Voter Service Centers and all Places of Deposit appear to be located in government facilities or in public parks. This raises the possibility these locations may be closed if a second wave of COVID-19 impacts Hawaii during the fall and winter months.
The State Office of Elections has received nearly $3.3 million to be spent by December 31, 2020 “…to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus for the 2020 federal election cycle”. These funds may be used for additional Voter Service Centers and Places of Deposit in more convenient locations and hours for Hawaii voters.
Statement by Sandy Ma, Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director
“Common Cause Hawaii is greatly disappointed in the May 15, 2020 Proclamation issued by the State Office of Elections and the County Clerks Offices announcing the locations and hours of the Voter Service Centers and Places of Deposit. There seems to have been precious little done to prepare for the 2020 elections and plan for the safety of voters and elections staff while voting during a pandemic.”
“We should not have to choose between our constitutional right to vote and our health. Federal money is available, but no public information has been offered on how the State Office of Elections and the County Clerks Offices will be preparing for voting in a pandemic.”
Common Cause Hawaii, along with 16 other organizations throughout the State, have sent a letter urging the governor, the state legislature, all county mayors, and all county councils to exercise their oversight authority over the State Office of Elections and the County Clerks Offices to:
- add more Voter Service Centers statewide with expanded hours of operations.
- add more Places of Deposit, which can be located in grocery stores and pharmacies available 24 hours a day and more than five days prior to election days.
- enact a voting plan during a pandemic.
Read the Letter to Lawmakers.
Common Cause Hawaii is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, promote equal rights, opportunity and representation for all. We work to empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
Phone 808 275 2675. P.O. Box 2240 Honolulu, HI 96804