The trend toward early voting in Hawaii continues with today’s primary election.
While tens of thousands of Hawaii voters will go to the state’s 235 polling places today to cast a ballot, those voters will likely be in the minority.
At least 160,000 people already have voted either by mail or at early-voting sites set up across the state.
While it’s difficult to predict exactly how many people will show up at polls today, recent history suggests it will be less than half the total vote.
The previous time there was a major Democratic primary battle for governor was in 2014. That’s when Gov. David Ige defeated incumbent Neil Abercrombie in an upset. There were 289,367 votes cast. Of those, 163,675 votes — about 56.5 percent — were cast before primary election day.
Today the roles are reversed. Ige is the incumbent, and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is the challenger.
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In 2016, a presidential year that also saw a hotly contested race for Honolulu mayor (Kirk Caldwell, Peter Carlisle and Charles Djou were running), 252,275 votes were cast in the primary. Of those, 156,519 votes — or 61.9 percent — were cast absentee.
Election officials are hoping the continuing shift to absentee voting means more voters are growing comfortable with making their choice from home, which could help stem the tide of declining voter participation.
Election officials expect to see an all-mail voting system in the not-so-distant future.
To test the waters, Ige this year signed into law Act 182 requiring Kauai County to distribute mail-in ballots to all voters for both the primary and general elections in 2020. Voters would still be able to walk in and vote, or return their completed ballots at special drop-off sites.
While overall voter participation is going down, the number of those casting votes before primary election day is growing. So far in this year’s primary, 160,426 Hawaii voters have voted either by mail or at early-voting sites.
2014 | 2016
Absentee votes: 163,675 | 156,519
Total votes: 289,367 | 252,725
Percentage absentee: 56.5 | 61.9
Source: County election offices
If you have not registered to vote in this year’s election, a new law allows for you to register at your polling place today during regular voting hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
You will need to complete a registration affidavit and provide identification. Acceptable forms of ID include a Hawaii driver’s license, a Hawaii state ID card, a military ID card, a passport or current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government-issued document showing your name and address.
Hawaii had 741,007 registered voters as of July 14.
To find your polling place, go to elections. hawaii.gov.
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