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Special coverage of the 2020 general election airs and streams on Hawaii Public Radio beginning Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. Hear NPR analysis and local insights into the results and the aftermath airing on HPR-1 and streaming on hawaiipublicradio.org and our mobile app.

Mail Voter Turnout Already Exceeds 2016 Primary, Edging Pass 2018

Sandee Oshiro/HPR
The deadline to get ballots to county election officials is 7 p.m. Saturday. If it's too late to mail it, voters can drop off their ballots at locations around the state. Remember to sign your return envelope. More information: elections.hawaii.gov.

Updated 8/6/20, 5:30 p.m.

Voter turnout for the 2020 primary is on its way to surpassing participation in both the 2016 and 2018 elections across the state.

This Saturday’s primary election is the first time state and county officials will be tallying votes through a vote-by-mail system.

So far, two counties are already seeing higher voter turnout than the last two primaries.

About 40-percent of Kauai, Maui County, Hawaii Island’s registered voters have returned their ballots – as of yesterday afternoon.

The city has received more than 207-thousand ballots.

"That’s the highest in 20 years. And I guess the next mark is we look at, you know, the high watermark since statehood – and I think that was 227,000," said Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi. "So we’ll see if we get past that when all is said and done. 

"I think what we’re seeing now is that voters are taking very well to the vote-by-mail system. And of course, the pandemic has an effect on it as well. But we’ll see what the final few days of returns start looking like."

To count, ballots must be in the hands of officials by 7 p.m. Saturday. Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu advises residents to not mail in their ballots at this time.

"Postmarks will not work, and we're encouraging voters not to use the post offices or mailboxes -- just to be certain," she said. "We are processing our mail on island, and in our county. That is a little more certainty that our ballots are staying on-island, and we'll be able to get them in our mail pickups."

Kaohu says if voters want to be absolutely certain their ballots are counted, she recommends going to a voter service center or using a nearby drop box.

County election officials said there’s still time to submit their ballots using county drop boxes. Voters can find a map of the drop box locations for each county on the state elections website.

More information on voting can also be found on your county clerk’s website. 

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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