Early voting ends as focus moves to Saturday’s primary

County clerk’s office had received 15,670 absentee mail-in ballots as of Thursday

Residents cast their votes on the last day of early walk-in voting Thursday afternoon at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center. The primary election takes place Saturday; polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. To find your polling location, visit elections.hawaii.gov/voters/polling-places/. Residents may still register to vote Saturday at their designated polling place. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photos

So far, nearly 19,000 voters in Maui County have either mailed in their absentee ballots or taken advantage of the early-voting opportunity on Maui and Molokai.

As of Thursday, the last day of early in-person voting, 2,750 people had cast their ballots at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. And 436 had cast votes at the Mitchell Pauole Conference Room on Molokai, said Josiah Nishita, deputy county clerk, Thursday night.

That’s a total of 3,186 walk-in voters, over a thousand more voters than the 2,101 walk-in voters in the 2016 primary election.

The Office of the County Clerk had received 15,670 absentee mail-in ballots as of Thursday out of 27,901 requested and mailed out. Nishita advised those who have not mailed their ballot yet to drop off the ballot at the county clerk’s office in the county building or at any polling place by the 6 p.m. Saturday closing. He did not think the ballot would reach them in time by mail at this point.

The primary election is on Saturday.

Harriet Sequeira of the Maui County clerk’s office processes paperwork for an early walk-in voter Thursday afternoon.

In total, Maui County has 94,194 registered voters, Nishita said. The 18,856 voters who had cast their ballots by Thursday represented 20 percent of registered voters. Residents still may register to vote on primary election day.

In the 2016 primary election, 26,993, or nearly 30 percent, of all registered voters (91,138) in Maui County turned out to vote.

Maui County Clerk Danny Mateo said Thursday that this year’s early-voter turnout has “been rather good.”

“It’s been better than 2016,” he said. “The numbers have been a little higher both in the absentee walk and the absentee mail-in ballots.”

Mateo said the change of venue from the county clerk’s office to the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center provided voters with a more spacious environment and “virtually no real wait.”

“The last election, if you recall, we had lines in the lobby, on the second floor and outside the lawn,” Mateo said. “The wait was rather long. This is a difference of night and day.”

Mateo said the first couple of days were slow, with just over 200 voters Monday and fewer than 200 on Tuesday. However, he said more than 400 voters showed up Wednesday, and he was hoping to hit 500 on Thursday.

Mateo encouraged people to get involved.

“Maui is at a crossroads, and if you’d like to be a part of determining Maui County’s future, then get involved. Participate. Vote,” Mateo said. “The future is made by the voters that show up. Their voices are heard. So if you’re not going to show up and you’re not going to participate, there’s no room for any of your complaints.”

Rain and high humidity Thursday didn’t dampen the turnout, though it did put some of the electronic voting machines on the fritz. Mateo said elections officials had to turn off the machines, though some were back on late Thursday afternoon.

One of the early voters Thursday was Lindsay Alexander, who teaches English language learners at Wailuku Elementary.

She voted early because she’s traveling to Hawaii island before the primary election. She said the big issue for her this election season was the environment, “especially the ocean.”

“I think if we don’t get our act together here quickly, there could be some really awful consequences from all the polluting and overfishing,” Alexander said. “Hopefully, we’ll have people in office that understand the importance of that.”

Alexander said she voted for incumbent Gov. David Ige in the governor’s race, because she thinks he’s “done a decent job the first four years” despite a few faux pas, and because the Hawaii State Teachers Association endorsed him. She also voted for Elle Cochran for Maui County mayor because she “just seems very genuine to me, and she really cares about the people and the island.”

On Saturday, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. To find out the location of an individual’s polling site, visit the state Office of Elections website at elections.hawaii.gov or call (808) 453-VOTE (8683).

People may register to vote on primary election day. They must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Hawaii and at least 18 years old.

To vote, people must report to their polling places as determined by their residence address. Voters need at least one form of physical identification. These include: a Hawaii driver’s license; Hawaii state identification; military identification; passport or current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government-issued document showing a name and address, according to the Office of Elections website.

People registering will be required to complete a voter registration affidavit form.

For more information, visit elections.hawaii.gov or call the Maui County clerk’s office at 270-7749.

On Saturday, The Maui News will upload voting results on its website at www.mauinews.com. There will be election coverage on the website and in Sunday’s newspaper.

Akaku Maui Community Media will present live coverage of the primary election on outdoor screens beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Akaku Center at 333 Dairy Road in Kahului.

A live broadcast will be on Channels 53, 54 and 55. Other election news will be on KAKU 88.5 FM and streamed on the web at www.akaku.org. Coverage will include Maui County Council and state House races along with the mayor’s and governor’s races.

Anchors will be Kathy Collins and Jeff King. There will be analysis and commentary from Deidre Tegarden, a former aide to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Akaku’s Chivo Ching Johnson and journalist Anu Yagi will interview candidates and community leaders at a stage outside the station.

Food and refreshments will be available.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com, and Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.