East Hawaii News

Votin’ Time Is Here; Many Already Have

November 5, 2012, 1:45 PM HST
* Updated November 6, 11:03 AM
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On this last day before Election Day, more than a quarter of the Big Island’s registered voters have already cast their ballots.

County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi reported Sunday that 104,323 Big Island residents were registered to vote in Tuesday’s general election.

That is nearly 5,000 more than the primary election in August, and about 2,500 more than in the 2008 general election, the last time a presidential election was held.

As of Saturday, Hawaii County had received 20,019 mailed absentee ballots, Kawauchi said. Another 9,502 ballots were cast at early walk-in voting locations in Hilo, Waimea or Kona. Some of the latter were absentee ballots which were dropped off.

That means the amount of absentee ballots cast — 28.3% of registered voters — on the Big Island has already exceeded the 28.0% absentee turnout during the 2008 general election. And that doesn’t include a couple more days of mail deliveries and the absentee votes that will be dropped off at polling places Tuesday.

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Part of the increased absentee participation can be attributed to this year’s effort by election workers to mail an absentee ballot application to every registered voter who had not already requested one.

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Since early walk-in voting ended Saturday, if your absentee ballot wasn’t mailed in time to reach the county clerk’s office by 6 p.m. on election day, your only option is to cast your ballot in person. That includes going to your designated polling station in person during the voting hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and either using a voting machine or dropping off a completed absentee ballot.

If you think your mailed absentee ballot won’t reach the county in time – and officials recommended that they be mailed a week in advance – poll workers will check to see if it has arrived. If it hasn’t, they will invalidate the absentee ballot and allow you to vote via machine.

Absentee ballots can also be dropped off in person today at the county’s Election Division office in Hilo by its 4:30 p.m. closing time.

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Absentee or early walk-in voting are the only options for voters in the Big Island’s three “pocket precincts.” Those areas, which have less than 500 voters each, were designated by the Legislature to be “virtual” precincts to save money and voting resources. There are two pocket precincts in Hilo and one in Kona.

Voters can locate their polling places on-line at the state Office of Elections website.

Unless the voter is dropping off an absentee ballot, they will be asked to show a picture ID and to sign a poll book.

Election Day is a holiday for state and county workers, and some workers in the private sector may qualify for paid time off to vote.

Hawaii state law mandates that employees be allowed two hours off to vote, but only if their shift lasts for the entire time the polls are open. The law does not apply to workers who have two consecutive hours off during the 11-hour voting period either before, during – not counting lunch breaks – or after their work shift.

Election officials are also reminding the public that it is illegal to sign-wave or conduct any other campaign activities within 200 feet of a polling place on Election Day. This year the state has provided an on-line feature that helps determine those boundaries.

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