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Government & Politics

What To Expect From Hawaii's Presidential Primary

Ronen Zilberman
Civil Beat

The state’s Democratic Party is rolling out a new system for collecting members’ votes. The Republican Party cancelled its primary and awarded its delegates to President Donald Trump.

Following Monday’s vote in New Hampshire, candidates in the Democratic presidential primary are moving on to states like South Carolina and Nevada.

On the Republican side, President Donald T`rump faces a primary challenge in some states, while running unopposed in others.

In Hawaii, Tuesday, Feb. 18 marks the first party registration deadline for those who want to vote in the Democratic presidential preference poll. To vote in Democratic presidential primary, Hawaii residents first need to register to vote with the state, then register with the party.

The party is debuting two new voting features this year: a mail-in ballot and ranked-choice voting.

All 2020 elections in Hawaii are switching to vote by mail, which advocates hope will increase Hawaii’s lowest-in-the-nation voter turnout.

But only the Democrats’ presidential primary will use ranked-choice voting, a system where voters rank their favored candidates rather than just selecting one.

Kate Stanley, interim chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party, describes a ranked-choice system as an insurance policy for voters. According to Democratic National Committee rules, a candidate needs to get at least 15 percent of the votes in a state to receive any delegates to the party’s national convention.

Stanley says a ranked-choice vote ensures every vote will be counted, even if a voter’s first choice does not reach the 15 percent threshold.

“For instance, if your first choice doesn't reach 15 percent, then your second choice will be counted,” Stanley told HPR.

Two waves of mail-in ballots will be sent out, with same day registration available at select polling places on Primary Day in April.

Hawaii Republicans don’t need to worry about primary deadlines. They only have one option. Hawaii GOP Chair Shirlene Ostrov told HPR that Donald Trump was the only candidate to register with the party before its Dec. 2 cutoff.

Trump does have primary challengers. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld won a single delegate in Iowa, and none in New Hampshire, where he received 9 percent of the vote.

Ostrov says the Hawaii Republican Party is giving all its delegates to Trump and saving the $75,000 it would have spent holding a caucus to support more candidates for LOCAL office.

But Ostrov is clear: the state Republican party is behind Trump. And she thinks a lot of Hawaii voters are too. 

“[About] 128,000 people voted for President Trump in 2016, without a track record. Now we have this massive record of accomplishments, I suspect there's more.”

Hawaii is one of seven states in which the Republican Party has cancelled its primary and awarded all their delegate vote to the President. The others are Alaska, Kansas, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, and South Carolina.

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