Make Sure You Know How to Vote by Mail in 2020

Posted on 02/12/20

The way Hawai`i votes is changing.

Starting with the Primary Election this summer, the state is going to an all-mail or absentee ballot voting system.

That means that if you normally vote on Election Day at your local school or other polling place, you won’t be able to do that any more. You’ll have to mail in your vote before Election Day or go to a Voter Service Center in your county to cast a ballot.

For about half of us, it shouldn’t be a problem. More than half the ballots cast last election were by mail or early at a walk-in absentee polling place.

But if you’ve always voted on Election Day, you’ll need to learn the new system.

If you’re registered to vote, you should have received a Hawaii Votes by Mail postcard from the Office of Elections last month. If you’ve moved and/or didn’t receive a postcard, contact the Office of Elections at or call 808-453-VOTE (8683) to register to vote or to check on your voter registration.

In April, you’ll receive a postcard that should be returned with your signature. Elections officials want an updated list of signatures to match against your signature on the mail-in ballot.

The next deadline is July 9 – the last day to register to receive your mail ballot packet for the Primary Election. Followed by: July 21 – look for your Primary Election mail ballot packet to arrive; July 27 – Voter Service Centers open through Election Day; Mail your ballot back by Aug. 5 to make sure it is received by Election Day; and Aug. 8 – Primary Election Day -- All ballots must be received by 7 p.m.

Dates for the General Election: Oct. 5 – voter registration deadline to receive your mail ballot packet for the General Election; Oct. 16 – Look for your General Election mail ballot packet to arrive; Oct. 20 – Voter Service Centers open through Election Day; Mail your ballot back by Oct. 30 to make sure it is received by Election Day. Nov. 3 – General Election Day – all ballots must be received by 7 p.m.

The state and counties are expected to announce the location and hours for Voter Service Centers in May. The law only requires one Voter Service Center per county and gives the counties the option to open more, but the Legislature is considering bills (HB2128 and SB 2137) to require more than one center per county.

If you prefer to actually cast a ballot, you can do so at a Voter Service Center. You’ll also be able to register to vote after the mail ballot deadline and you can drop off your completed mail ballot at the center instead of mailing it back.

Other states that have adopted mail ballots have seen an increase in voter participation. It’s also less expensive to run an election by mail. AARP Hawai`i supports increasing voter participation. But we also want to make sure that everyone’s vote counts and the transition to a mail election system doesn’t leave any voters behind.

This story is provided by AARP Hawaii. Visit the AARP Hawaii page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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