Vote from home; Hawaii to conduct elections entirely by mail

Make sure you're registered now and your information is up to date

For the first time in Hawaii's history, our primary and general elections will be conducted by mail. You need to check now to make sure you are registered so you can cast your vote from the privacy of your own home in August and November.

Last year, Hawaii lawmakers approved Act 136 to conduct all elections statewide by mail, beginning with the 2020 primary election. Polling places where we used to vote, such as local schools, will no longer be voting locations.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association encourages all members to vote and have a voice in the political process. Your votes in 2020 can impact whether our public education system thrives or stagnates in the years ahead.

Here's what you need to know.

2020 election dates and deadlines

Election Day

Primary: Aug. 8, 2020
General: Nov. 3, 2020

Voter Registration Deadline

Primary: July 9, 2020
General: Oct. 5, 2020

There are no changes to the 2020 election schedule at this time.

Make sure you're registered; look for a signature capture card in the mail

First, make sure you are registered with the state Office of Elections.

The Office of Elections is sending out election mailings to every registered voter providing essential election information. 

  1. Voters should have received a postcard in January providing important dates and deadlines.
  2. Another postcard will arrive in April asking voters to provide a sample of their signature so that county election officials can update the voter registration rolls with current signatures. Make sure you look for it, sign it, and return it in the mail.

If you do not receive a postcard, please verify your voter registration status. You can go online at olvr.hawaii.gov or call the Clerk's Office in your county to verify your registration status.

It is critical that you keep your voter registration record current because your mail ballot packet will be sent to your mailing address. The mail ballot packet is NOT forwardable. If you have moved and your voter registration record has an outdated address, your mail ballot packet will not be delivered to you. So be sure to update your voter registration, using the link above, if you have moved or changed your name.

Learn more about voter registration here.

How to vote by mail 

For voters who have voted by mail in previous elections, your experience will remain unchanged. If you filed for an absentee ballot, your procedure will remain the same

If you are new to voting by mail, expect to receive your mail ballot packet 18 days prior to Election Day. The ballot packet will include a ballot, ballot secrecy sleeve, pre-paid return envelope, and voting instructions.

Voting your ballot

Follow these tips to ensure that your vote counts.

  • Before voting, review the instructions, contests, and candidates on both sides of the ballot.
  • When marking the ballot, completely fill in the box to the left of your choice with a black or blue pen.
  • If you change your mind or make an error, a replacement ballot may be requested through your County Elections Division.

Preparing your ballot for return

After voting your ballot, re-fold it and seal it in the secret ballot sleeve. The secret ballot sleeve ensures your right to secrecy as the ballots are opened and prepared for counting. Once sealed, place the secret ballot sleeve in the return envelope. Read the affirmation statement and sign the return envelope before returning it to the Clerk's Office.

IMPORTANT: When returning your voted ballot, you are required to sign the return envelope. Your signature is used to confirm your identity by verifying it against the signature associated with your voter registration record. If you do not sign the return envelope, your ballot will not be counted.

If there is an issue with the return envelope, like a mismatched or missing signature, the County Elections Division will notify you and allow you to correct the deficiency within five days after the election.

Returning your ballot

Voters may return their ballot by mail or in-person at a designated place of deposit. Voted ballots must be received by the Clerk's Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

  • By mail: Voters should mail their voted ballot two to three days before the election to ensure that the Clerk's Office receives it by the deadline. The return envelope is postage paid via the U.S. Postal Service and addressed to your Clerk’s Office.
  • Places of deposit: The County Elections Divisions will establish places of deposit beginning five days prior to Election Day to collect voted ballots ensuring voters can return their voted ballot by the 7 p.m. deadline on Election Day regardless of expected mailing timeline.
  • Voter Service Center:  The County Elections Divisions will open voter service centers beginning on the tenth business day prior to Election Day. At a voter service center, voters can update their voter registration, register and vote, drop-off their voted ballot, or vote using accessible voting equipment. Since every voter is provided a mail ballot packet, the focus of the voter service center is to provide support services to assist voters and ensure all citizens have the opportunity to cast their vote. For example, if you make an error on your ballot and there is not enough time to get another by mail, you can visit a voter service center. Please note these centers will be extremely limited with only one or two on each island.
  • Clerk's Office: Voters may return their voted ballot directly to their Clerk's Office.

Locations and hours of ballot drop sites and Voter Service Centers will be posted in May. There are no changes to this procedure at this time.

HSTA members should look for our social media, website and Member Matters stories in the coming months with recommendations on the best candidates to vote for.

Featured image courtesy State of Hawaii Office of Elections.

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Author: Keoki Kerr