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About 23 percent of ballots already cast

County voter service centers open today

About 21,000 general election ballots, or 23 percent, have already been cast as of Saturday, the Maui County Clerk’s Office said early Monday afternoon.

County Clerk Kathy Kaohu said that her office sent out 92,711 ballots on Oct. 8 for the all mail-in ballot election. Voters who have not received their ballots should call the Office of the County Clerk at 270-7749.

“So far . . . so good,” said Kaohu, who oversaw the county’s transition to mail-in ballots for the August primary. Hawaii moved to an entirely mail-in format this year.

However, some in-person voting is still permitted as voter service centers open today at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku, the Mitchell Pauole Center Conference Room in Kaunakakai and the Lanai Police Station in Lanai City. The centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday until Nov. 2 and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

The centers offer same-day registration, in-person voting and collection of completed ballots. Completed ballots can also be deposited at one of the 12 dropboxes countywide. For a list of drop-off locations, visit elections.hawaii.gov/voter-service-centers-and-places-of-deposit/.

Kaohu also said that as of Saturday, 238 ballots received by the county had issues with signatures and about 1,200 ballots had delivery-related issues such as no mailboxes or wrong addresses. The county will be sending postcards to those that need to update their addresses and will notify those with issues regarding signatures at the back of their ballots.

The state Office of Elections recommends putting ballots in the mail no later than Oct. 26, five business days before the election.

Kaohu reminded people to sign the back of their ballots, otherwise they will be invalid. She said if people are uncomfortable with having their signatures exposed on the back of their ballots, they can stick their ballot in another envelope and mail the full package to the Clerk’s Office, whose return address is included on the original ballot envelope.

Overall, Kaohu hopes for a larger turnout than 42.7 percent reported in Maui County during the primary, with 43,873 participating out of 102,835 registered voters. This was an improvement over the 2018 primary when turnout was 36 percent.

In the 2018 general election, Maui County’s turnout was 52.4 percent, or 50,650 out of 96,721 voters, according to the Office of Elections.

“I’m thinking we are going to get a lot more than the primary. I’m hoping for at least 60,000 (ballots) returned,” Kaohu said.

Elections featuring a presidential race also tend to attract more voters than midterm elections.

During the primary election in August, Kaohu thought more and more ballots would be mailed in leading up to Election Day, but instead “it peaked then it kind of tapered out toward the end.”

“I thought it was just going to keep going,” she said.

Improvements have also been made since the primary election, when about 125 ballots were tied up in Hana late on election night after a bus carrying the ballots and a volunteer who was planning to bring them into town were unable to find each other in the rain and the dark.

“We made amendments to our process from lessons learned from the primary,” Kaohu said, though she added that she couldn’t elaborate on the process of transporting ballots from Hana to Wailuku for confidential reasons.

However, she said there will be regular pickups of ballots from Hana. She also encouraged everyone to mail in their ballots and reminded people that they still can register and vote as long as they are 18 years old.

“Get out there and exercise the right as early as you can,” she said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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