More muted candidate filing deadline passes
High-profile rematches in council, state Legislature set
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the excitement of the passing of the deadline to file for elections in the summer and fall on Tuesday afternoon and the solidifying of the names on the ballot was muted.
But after the 4:30 p.m. deadline passed, some high- profile rematches became apparent.
In the County Council, former Council Member Stacy Crivello will be seeking her old Molokai residency seat, currently held by council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez. Rawlins-Fernandez defeated the incumbent in November 2018, garnering 43.7 percent of the vote (22,124) compared to Crivello’s 40.8 percent (20,643).
In another rematch in the council, Claire Kamalu Carroll is taking on incumbent Shane Sinenci for the East Maui residency seat. Carroll is the daughter of Robert Carroll, who left the council in 2018. Sinenci defeated the younger Carroll, 46.7 percent (23,654) to 38.5 percent (19,467), pulling away in the final printout.
Both council races will not be decided until the Nov. 3 general election. The primary election is set for Aug. 8.
Another race to watch will be the Lanai residency seat being vacated by incumbent Riki Hokama due to term limits. Alberta De Jetley, Gabe Johnson and Matthew Mano are seeking the open seat. Their race will be pared to two candidates in the primary, with the survivors moving to the general election.
Two council members are reassured of election — council Chairwoman Alice Lee, who holds the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency seat, and Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, the Upcountry seat. Both are unopposed.
All other council incumbents face opposition.
State Rep. Tina Wildberger again takes on former Council Member Don Couch for the District 11 South Maui seat. She defeated Couch 54.6 percent (2,181) to 37.7 percent (1,505). They will both be on the ballot in the Democratic primary on Aug. 8.
Another closely watched state House primary will be District 13, the canoe district of East Maui, Lanai and Molokai. Incumbent Lynn DeCoite will take on Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte.
County Clerk Kathy Kaohu, who will be leading her first election as clerk, said Tuesday that things have gone smoothly for the elections office through the candidate filing deadline Tuesday.
“I haven’t heard back from anybody that there were challenges per se,” Kaohu said. “Everyone is taking the whole COVID-19 and the recommendations of the CDC quite seriously, so that helped. Our office hasn’t missed a beat.”
The entire county clerk staff has been working in the office through the pandemic.
“Some of the responses we implemented include more of an orderly process for assisting candidates or potential candidates or members of the public through phone or through email or through face-to-face appointments,” Kaohu said. “So far, the candidates have really met us in the middle by doing their part and understanding what their part was.”
Kaohu added that the numerous forms that are needed to file — including candidate affirmation signature and the public nomination signatures — have largely been received through fax or in-person. Electronic signatures currently are not allowed by law, she said.
“Everyone has kind of complied with that,” Kaohu said Tuesday before the candidate deadline. “We’ve got a number of last-minute filers. I guess that’s a strategy for some, and I anticipate them hustling out there right now. We even had a couple of people pull papers today.”
The fanfare of candidates pulling or filing papers has been muted under the new guidelines.
“There would be a parade of 20 or 30 supporters backing them up because it was kind of an awesome photo op, the moment is immortalized by having that sort of energy,” Kaohu said. “But this year, we limited it to one candidate and one person per candidate, one guest per candidate. So, it’s been a little more subdued.
“Those were the kind of measures that we felt would keep all of us healthy and operating without a glitch. So far, so good.”
This year will be the first year of all-mail ballots, which will go out July 21 for the primary and Oct. 16 for the general election. Kaohu emphasized that the move to all mail-in voting is going well.
With voter registration available on driver’s license and state ID forms and SNAP/food stamp applications, the numbers of registered voters in the county are going up.
“With the closure of motor vehicle offices and now the reopening, we expect another surge to start,” she said.
Kaohu said her office is working hard to get the word out that the voting process in Hawaii is mail-in only now. “2020 is our first official all-mail voting system and that is something I’m not taking for granted everybody is aware of,” she said. “And we are doing as much outreach as possible.”
“Polling places are now a thing of the past,” she said. “We will not be having our 34 precinct locations in our school cafeterias and community centers that older voters are familiar with.”
More than 50 percent of Maui County voters cast their ballots absentee in 2018 — before Election Day — Kaohu said.
“I believe this is a thing of the future and will be permanent,” she said. “So the trend was leading in that direction. Now, it’s door-to-door delivery of the ballots to you and then back to us. Now, the polling place is someone’s own kitchen table or wherever they choose to complete their ballot.”
There will be voter service centers open 10 days before the primary and general elections on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. They will help voters who may have questions, have spoiled their ballots or wish to hand-deliver. The centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election days.
Kaohu said that ballots should be mailed at least three days before the election or handed-delivered after that to either the voter service center or the County Clerk’s Office. Only ballots received by Election Day will be counted.
She also emphasized that on the primary ballots, voters may only vote in their selected party. If they vote for a race that is not in the party they selected on their ballot, those votes will not be counted.
For more information, call the County Clerk’s Office at 270-7749 or go to the website elections.hawaii.gov/2020-proclamation/.
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